March 23, 1944: Maurice Richard's Five Goal Night Earns All Three Stars
Sixty-five years ago, on March 23, 1944, Maurice Richard proved that he was at the top of the hockey world.
The event would occur at the Montreal Forum, during the second game of the Stanley Cup semi-finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After a scoreless first period between the rival teams, “The Rocket” blasted off to begin the second period.
He scored the first two goals of the night in a 17-second span, the first coming at 1:48 and the next at 2:05.
After the Leafs scored to get on the board, Richard completed his hat trick at 16:46.
Richard was not finished as he netted his fourth goal of the evening in the final period’s opening minute and put a fifth and final puck behind Toronto goaltender, Paul Bibeault, at the 8:54 mark.
Ironically, Bibeault had been loaned to the Maple Leafs earlier in the season by the Canadiens as a war-time replacement.
With the Canadiens holding a commanding lead in the game, coach Dick Irvin felt it safer to keep Richard healthy for the remainder of the series, and kept his star sniper on the bench for the rest of the game.
Richard's five-goal playoff performance tied the NHL record set by Canadiens star, Newsy Lalonde, in March of 1919.
Only three other players (Darryl Sittler, Reggie Leach and Mario Lemieux) have found the back of the net five times in a post-season encounter since then.
Richard's linemates, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach, supported the right-winger, contributing five and four assists respectively.
The Canadiens 5-1 victory evened the series at a game apiece.
Richard was picked as the evening’s first, second and third star, the first time any player had swept the post-game honors.
The next day, newspaper headlines in both Toronto and Montreal read “Richard 5 - Toronto 1.”
The Canadiens would go on to win the series four games to one, and sweep the Chicago Blackhawks in four games to win the Stanley Cup.
The following season, Richard would score 50 goals in 50 games. The first player to achieve that accomplishment.
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