May 10, 1979: Boston Bruins Called for Too Many Men Against Montreal
Pro hockey has always had its share of odd moments and endings in playoff games.
May 10, 1979 is clearly one of the top five, if not No. 1.
The Canadiens are in search of a fourth consecutive Cup victory and had defeated the Bruins in the last two Cup finals.
After Montreal had won the first two games handily, Boston has battled back to take the series to a deciding seventh game.
The Bruins would spot a 3-1 lead going into the third period and looked to be on the verge of victory.
Canadiens captain Yvan Cournoyer gave his team a talking to during the second intermission.
"We came into the room after the second period and the mood was definitely down," said former Canadiens player Doug Riseborough.
"We expected to be doing a lot better at that point. We were down two goals and everybody was pretty quiet, but then Yvan said a few things."
"Words mean a lot, but if they aren't carried onto the ice, they don't mean a thing," Risebrough added.
"We knew if we could get one goal, we'd get another."
Montreal responded with goals from Mark Napier and Guy Lapointe to tie the game at three apiece.
Boston was still as resiliant as they had been all series.
With just under four minutes remaining, Rick Middleton managed to get a puck off the arm of goaltender Ken Dryden and into the net to regain the lead.
But with 2:34 to go, the Bruins were caught in a line change for too many men on the ice.
"It was my fault," Bruins coach Don Cherry later told the Globe and Mail.
"The guy couldn't have heard me yell. I grabbed two other guys trying to go over the boards. That would have made eight on the ice. Might as well have let them go."
Not wasting an opportunity, Montreal coach Scotty Bowman put out his elite power-play unit of Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, Steve Shutt and Jacques Lemaire.
All five players are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
LeMaire carried the puck into the Boston zone before dropping it back to Lafleur at the top of the circle.
Lafleur produced a spectacular shot to beat goalie Gilles Gilbert with 74 seconds remaining in the game.
The Bruin netminder would comment after the game on the moments between Middleton's go-ahead goal and Lafleur's tying one.
"You want the buzzer to go. You want it to be over ... but it goes on ... and on ... and on."
After regulation was over, Cournoyer's words of wisdom to his team during the intermission proved beneficial yet again.
"We knew all the things he was saying," defenceman Brian Engblom said,
"But it still felt pretty good to hear them. What he said was something like: 'You guys may be tired, but they're just as tired as you are. More, maybe.' "
The Canadiens and Bruins had multiple opportunities to clinch it during the extra period.
Middleton, who had factored in the scoring of all four Boston goals on the night already, was determined to bring victory for his team. Dryden wouldn't let it happen.
Gilbert made 47 stops in the game for Boston.
In overtime, however, it's the save you don't make that you want back.
Having gone 9:33 into the overtime, Savard intercepted a Middleton pass, passed to Rejean Houle, who gave it to Mario Tremblay who gave it to Yvon Lambert.
Lambert was not about to give it to Gilbert.
"The first time I had the chance to score," Lambert recalled, "I went in too deep. The puck got mixed up in my skates."
"This time, when I saw Mario with the puck, I put my head down and said: 'I don't care ... I'm getting there.' I wasn't thinking about anything else. The pass was a perfect one. The goalie had no chance. It was over."
The series was over.
"I've lost before, but this is the toughest ever," a dejected Gilbert said after the game.
Montreal would go on to face the New York Rangers in the Cup Final, defeating them in five games.
Later that month, Bruins GM Harry Sinden fired Cherry.
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