Playoff Game 70 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3 (2OT)

Playoff Game 70
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3 (2OT)
Stanley Cup Quarterfinals, Game 3
Saturday, April 21, 1979
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

They remade Cinderella last night at Maple Leaf Gardens and cast the unlikeliest actor they could find in the starting role.

Cam Connor, who didn’t even get on the ice until overtime and then only because two Montréal Canadien regulars, Steve Shutt and Mark Napier were hurt, scored the goal at 5:25 of the second overtime period to give the Canadiens a 4-3 victory over the Maple Leafs.

It also granted the Montréalers a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup quarter-final series, a set they can sweep with a win in game four tonight at the Gardens.

Connor (a) scored one goal all season in spot duty with the Canadiens; (b) dressed for last night’s game because three first stringers (Doug Jarvis, Mario Tremblay and Réjean Houle) were injured and (c) got to work in overtime when Shutt (pulled groin) and Napier (ankle injury) weren’t available.

He also didn’t shoot the puck on his winning goal. He lost control of it and the puck squirted under a sprawling Leaf goalie, Mike Palmateer. If he hadn’t lost control of the puck and shot it, Palmateer probably would have stopped it.

The goal broke up an excellent, entertaining game in which the Leafs, who were out-scored 10-3 in losing the first two games of the series in Montréal, produced a gritty effort to push the powerful Canadiens to the limit.

The Leafs had the best scoring chances in the first overtime period including four in-close tries by Paul Gardner (twice), Dave Hutchison and Rocky Saganiuk, plus a shot by Ian Turnbull that beat Canadien goalie Ken Dryden but bounced off the post.

“The longer the overtime went, the better chance we had,” said Roger Neilson, who could be coaching his last game with Leafs tonight.

“We carried the play to them strongly and had the better chances in the first overtime. I thought they were more exhausted than we were. We played extremely well but somehow, it just wasn’t goot enough. We’ll just have to be better to win Sunday, when we’ll find out which club has the best conditioning.

“The problem is that we just can’t break through that barrier and end a losing streak (19 games without a victory against Canadiens) that’s gone on far too long. If we can ever get that first win, then anything can happen.”

The Leaf players were far from despondent after the game.

“Sure, we’re disappointed but we gave it every ounce of strength we had and can hold our heads up about it,” said winger Lanny McDonald. “We outplayed them in both overtime periods, had plenty of chances but we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”

“I thought we came back from the games in Montréal with a really big effort but we just can’t seem to buy any breaks,” said Leaf defenceman Dave Hutchison. “We sure had the chances in overtime but whoever hands out the breaks just doesn’t seem to be with us in this series.”

Palmateer played a brilliant game in the Leaf net, facing 48 shots over the game. He’d sent the match into overtime with two tough saves and a pokecheck of a pass which saved a goal in the last minute of regulation time.

“If that guy (Connor) had shot the puck, there was no goal,” Palmateer said. “But he lost it and it beat me.”

Leaf captain Darryl Sittler delivered perhaps his finest game of the season and scored two goals, including the score at 17:40 of the third period. It was the Leafs’ first cheap goal of the series, a department cornered by the Canadiens in the first two games.

Lanny McDonald had the other Leaf score.

Napier, who was injured in the first overtime period when he crashed over Palmateer on an in-alone chance, Larry Robinson and Jacques Lemaire scored for Canadiens.

Napier opened the scoring early in the first period on a nifty set-up by Yvon Lambert but the Leafs rebounded on goals by Sittler, on a power-play, and McDonald to take the lead.

The Canadiens counted twice in two minutes in the second to go ahead, Robinson and Lemaire (on a power-play) getting the scores.

The Montréal club then checked the Leafs strongly until late in the third when Sittler’s pass-out from the corner bounced into the net off defenceman Guy Lapointe.

In the first overtime, Palmateer made big saves on Shutt and Guy Lafleur, then the Leafs dominated the concluding half of the period.

Hutchison knifed in front after a fine rush, Dryden made the save and Gardner just failed to reach the rebound. Then Dryden stopped a shot by Rocky Saganiuk and Gardner was unable to lift the rebound over his pad.

“I was trying to pull the puck to my backhand but was in too close,” Gardner said. “I tried to go upstairs with it but again I was too close and it hit his pad.”

Turnbull rang his shot off the post, Dryden made a good save on Sittler near the end of the period. That set the stage for Cam Connor and hero time.

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, April 22, 1979

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 02:48 – Napier (Lambert, Savard)
MTL PEN – 04:33 – Savard, holding
TOR PP GOAL – 05:06 – Sittler (McDonald, Turnbull)
TOR PEN – 05:22 – Salming, hooking
TOR GOAL – 08:14 – McDonald (Burrows, Salming)
MTL PEN – 08:14 – Gainey, unsportsmanlike conduct
TOR PEN – 14:42 – Turnbull, inteference
TOR PEN – 18:29 – Gardner, slashing
MTL PEN – 18:53 – Lapointe, interference

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 03:01 – Engblom, roughing
TOR PEN – 03:01 – Butler, roughing double minor
MTL GOAL – 04:35 – Robinson (Gainey, Mondou)
MTL PP GOAL – 06:12 – Lemaire (Napier, Lapointe)
MTL PEN – 06:56 – Savard, roughing
TOR PEN – 06:56 – Williams, roughing
MTL PEN – 18:05 – Robinson, holding

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 17:40 – Sittler

MTL PEN – 08:21 – Hughes, roughing
TOR PEN – 08:21 – Hutchison, roughing

2nd Overtime
MTL GOAL – 05:25 – Connor (Riseborough, Savard)

MTL – Dryden (W, 38-41)
TOR – Palmateer (L, 44-48)

MTL – 13+9+12+10+4 = 48
TOR – 7+10+10+10+4 = 41

MTLGoaltenders: Ken Dryden, Michel Larocque. Defence: Rick Chartraw, Brian Engblom, Rod Langway, Guy Lapointe, Gilles Lupien, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard. Forwards: Cam Connor, Bob Gainey, Pat Hughes, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Jacques Lemaire, Pierre Mondou, Mark Napier, Doug Risebrough, Steve Shutt.
TORGoaltenders: Paul Harrison, Mike Palmateer. Defence: Dave Burrows, Dave Hutchison, Joel Quenneville, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: John Anderson, Pat Boutette, Jerry Butler, Ron Ellis, Paul Gardner, Jimmy Jones, Dan Maloney, Lanny McDonald, Walt McKechnie, Rocky Saganiuk, Darryl Sittler (C), Dave Williams.