Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rangers & Canadiens

The Original Six angle to the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs continues with New York and Montreal embroiled in a fight to advance.

They first met in post-season competition in late March of 1930, in a best-of-three encounter. And they did so in grand style.

Game one took place on March 28, 1930, at the Montreal Forum.

New York opened the scoring when Murray Murdoch's shot got past goalie George Hainsworth. In period two, Montreal left-winger, Armand Mondu, got the Canadiens on the board beating John Ross Roach.

Then, Montreal and New York settled in for a extended defensive battle. The outcome wouldn't be determined until 68 minutes and 52 seconds (a new record) of extra-time had been played.

If Montreal fans had to place a bet on a player to score the winner for their side, most would have chosen Howie Morenz. During the regular season, Morenz led his team in scoring, connecting for 40 goals.

On this night, however, Morenz didn't factor into the scoring. The game-winning goal was scored by Habs right-winger Gus Rivers.

In an Associated Press story containing the game summary, Gustave Desrivieres is identified as the goal scorer. "...Gustave Desrivieres, the Canadiens rawest recruit, took the puck after a scramble in front of the Rangers goal to slam it over Roach's body to win the game."

Born in Winnipeg, Desrivieres and Rivers were indeed the same person. When researching this player in reference books, the name Gus Rivers appears. Obviously, it was altered down the line, but Montreal supporters were just happy he ended the contest in their favour.

At Madison Square Garden on Sunday March 30th, New York needed a win to keep their hopes alive. A huge crowd of 17,000 fans were on-hand to cheer. But, the Canadiens tossed a wet blanket over the party.

First period goals by Nick Wasnie and Pit Lepine were the only goals Montreal needed.

In the final frame, Montreal concentrated on defence. "They depended strictly upon their defensive ability and were content to wreck the Rangers attacks," wrote Joseph C. Nichols in The New York Times.

Back home, Montreal faithful celebrated their 2-0 victory and series win over the Rangers.

It would take time before New York and Montreal tangled in playoff action during the Original Six era.

Their first match-up in hockey's golden era came in 1950. This time around, they engaged in a best-of-seven, semi-final series.

Opening night (March 29, 1950) on Broadway saw the Rangers take centre stage as they downed Montreal 3-1. Their success was attributed to the forward line of Don Raleigh, Ed Slowinski and Pentti Lund to contain Montreal's unit of Elmer Lach, Rocket Richard and Norm Dussault.

Lund, the Calder Trophy (top rookie) winner the previous year, scored a hat trick in New York's 4-1 game two win.

On Montreal ice, the Rangers and Canadiens split games three and four.

 Montreal took a 2-0 advantage in game three, but New York stormed back to edge the Canadiens 3-2.

Montreal replaced Bill Durnan with Gerry McNeil in goal for game four and the rookie netminder didn't buckle under the pressure. In overtime, he made a key stop on Buddy O'Connor, who "...slipped through unmolested, but McNeil pulled off his greatest save of the game in smothering the shot," noted Canadien Press.

Elmer Lach ended the proceedings when he scored against Ranger goalie Chuk Rayner.

Game five, also played in Montreal, provided the Rangers with another chance to get back into the final.

Neither team could score over forty-minutes and if Montreal hoped to survive they needed a big third period. Their dreams were dashed when New York scored two goals less than a minute apart.

"I'm so happy I could cry," said Rangers forward Jack Gordon, reacting to scoring the series winning goal. Rayner earned the shutout in New York's 3-0 victory.

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