Game 585 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2

Game 585
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2
Wednesday, December 5, 1979
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Toronto Maple Leafs finally delivered a knockout blow last night to defeat the Stanley Cup champion Montréal Canadiens 3-2 before an unusually loud crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens.

It was the Leafs’ first regular-season victory over the Habs since November 17, 1976, when they won 1-0. In the interim, there had been some embarrassing playoff sweeps by the Canadiens and some heartbreaking ties and one-goal losses by the Leafs.

We had them on the ropes so many times and let them slip away, said Toronto left winger Dave Williams after the breakthrough.

The Leafs won by shutting down the high-scoring line of Guy Lafleur, Pierre Larouche and Steve Shutt and controlling the other Montréal lines with persistent checking.

Montréal coach Bernie Geoffrion was disgusted by the lack of depth shown by his team in last night’s game.

“Toronto wasn’t going anywhere until they got two goals on penalties in the first period. In the third period, they were just sitting on the lead.

“They stopped our big line, but we’ve got three more lines and they’ve got to get going some time. We were missing too many chances.”

The Leafs had a 3-1 lead until the final minute when too much caution allowed Serge Savard to score a goal from the blueline with 21 seconds left in the game.

“We didn’t start hanging back until the last 10 minutes and that’s the wrong thing to do against Montréal,” said centre Walt McKechnie, who finished the game wearing two different skates after he had a blowout of his left skate while playing his hard-checking game.

“We were thinking too much about our checks and not enough about control.”

Toronto coach Floyd Smith had three comments about the win. He called it “excellent, much-needed and something we deserved. It goes a long way toward building character on this hockey club.”

John Anderson, who scored the winning goal after missing an excellent opportunity in the first period, felt relieved after the game, saying, “that missed chance had been hanging over my head.”

Toronto goalie Mike Palmateer, who turned in a defiant performance in the face of scrambles and hard shots, smashed his chin on the crossbar in the final period but showed no ill effects after the game.

The Canadiens, with four consecutive Stanley Cups behind them, were disorganized in the first period.

The Leafs kept up constant forechecking and maintained the success of their power play to build up a 2-0 advantage.

Lanny McDonald drilled a wrist shot off the post from a bad angle to beat Montréal’s Bunny Larocque at 7:16, with Réjean Houle off for hooking.

Rocky Saganiuk extended the lead with a low slapshot on a power play as he swept at the puck in the slot area while off balance.

The Leafs came close to ripping open a three-goal lead when Anderson skated in on the Montréal goal, but lost his footing with half the net open in front of him.

The Canadiens took advantage of the letdown and raced down the ice. Mark Napier was squeezed up against the boards by Dave Burrows, but managed to pass the puck out to Pierre Mondou in front of the Toronto net. Mondou deposited his eighth goal of the season behind Palmateer.

Anderson made up for his first-period miss with a second-period goal to put the Leafs ahead 3-1. He took the puck off the skates of rookie centre Laurie Boschman and flipped the puck high into the net before Larocque could come across the crease to defend.

Toronto’s youngest line and the diligence of McKechnie aided Palmateer in the victory.

While the Kid Line showed glaring weaknesses in the Toronto end, its energy in the Montréal end largely made up for any lack of experience.

McKechnie, aside from playing his regular shift, played the point on the power play and took a shift as a penalty-killer when the Leafs were playing with three skaters against Montréal’s four in the second period. Palmateer, who earned his first NHL shutout against the Habs in that previous Leafs win, was superlative in two Montréal power-play situations during the middle period.

In one goalmouth scramble, he made two saves each on Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe.

He had one close call at the start of the second period, when Mondou took a lead pass and pulled him far out of position, leaving the net wide open. However, Mondou’s momentum put him out of range and his shot hit the side of the Toronto net.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 6, 1979

1st Period
TOR PEN – 04:14 – Hutchison, high sticking
MTL PEN – 06:18 – Houle, holding
TOR PP GOAL – 07:16 – McDonald (Gardner, Salming)
MTL PEN – 14:25 – Robinson, hooking
TOR GOAL – 16:25 – Saganiuk (Williams, McKechnie)
MTL GOAL – 17:02 – Mondou (Napier)

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 09:41 – Anderson (Boschman, Saganiuk)
MTL PEN – 12:33 – Tremblay, high sticking
TOR PEN – 12:33 – Williams, high sticking
TOR PEN – 14:01 – Butler, high sticking
TOR PEN – 16:03 – Turnbull, hooking

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 19:39 – Savard (Robinson, Lafleur)

TOR – Palmateer (W, 29-31)
MTL – Larocque (L, 26-29)

TOR – 11+10+8 = 29
MTL – 12+10+9 = 31

TORGoaltenders: Paul Harrison, Mike Palmateer. Defence: Dave Burrows, Greg Hotham, Dave Hutchison, Joel Quenneville, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: John Anderson, Laurie Boschman, Pat Boutette, Jerry Butler, Ron Ellis, Paul Gardner, Dan Maloney, Lanny McDonald, Walt McKechnie, Rocky Saganiuk, Dave Williams.
MTLGoaltenders: Michel Larocque, Richard Sévigny. Defence: Brian Engblom, Rod Langway, Guy Lapointe, Gilles Lupien, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard (C). Forwards: Bob Gainey, Réjean Houle, Danny Geoffrion, Doug Jarvis, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Pierre Larouche, Pierre Mondou, Mark Napier, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay.

TOR – 12-10-3 (.540)
MTL – 14-7-6 (.630)