Tuesday, April 19, 2011

60 Years Ago Today

Sixty years ago today, April 19, 1951. Harry Watson scored 5:15 into overtime as Toronto beat Montreal in Game four of the Stanley Cup finals. The Leafs went up 3 games to 1 as every game had been decided in extra time. This set up one of the more memorable goals in hockey history when in game five, Bill Barilko scored the Cup-winning overtime winner.

Montreal coach, Dick Irvin is quoted in the Montreal Gazette saying, "If I was lucky as the Maple Leafs, I'd be a millionaire," alluding to the breaks that were falling the Leafs way. Game four was played at the Montreal Forum in front of 14,452 spectators. Leafs, Sid Smith opened the scoring 38 seconds into the game and Maurice Richard tied it up 14 minutes later. Howie Meeker gave Toronto the lead early in the second period and Elmer Lach deflected in a Maurice Richard shot at 13:49 of the third.

Before Watson won it in extra time, Montreal's Billy Reay missed a break-away chance on Al Rollins. Dick Irvin commented afterwards,"I never did have any luck in the playoffs. The breaks always seem to go to the other team. Billy Reay was in all alone with Rollins and I thought we had it all wrapped up. So what does Billy do? He flips the puck instead of driving it in. Near the end of the third period Doug Harvey's shot hit the crossbar. Rollins never saw it...That's the unseen hand, it's working for Smythe and not for us." Irvin finished his sour grapes with, "We made two mistakes the last two games and each of them cost us a game. That's the unseen hand again."

The Leafs luck and Barilko's shot of course carried them to a Cup two days later. An interesting point about that one, there was an 11:45 PM curfew on Saturday night in Toronto. If the game had gone much longer it would have to have been replayed and Barilko's moment most likely may never have occurred. This actually happened just over two weeks prior when game two of the semi-final between Boston and Toronto had to be replayed the following day when a 1-1 tie went past curfew.

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