Habs / Bruins April 8, 1971: A Comeback For The Ages


Update: NHL.com has picked up this article to run today and asked that I comply by posting a Ken Dryden period clip. You will see it grouped with the others below.


What you are about see to and explained in great detail is the greatest comeback in Canadiens history.

It occurred on April 8, 1971, in the second game of the first round series against the highly favoured Boston Bruins.

Habs players involved in this game have called it momumental.

Fans witnessing it have never forgotten it.

For reasons best explained by cheap television budgets, the goal highlight from this game and series are harder to find than Hal Gill hat trick. In fact, they have been thought to have been non-existent, destroyed long ago in some historical oversight.

Now thanks to reader and Habs video afficionado Francis Bouchard (see yesterday's post), you can now see the 12 goal highlights from that historical game in all their glory.

Last Friday, I received a DVD copy Francis sent and uploaded the almost 8 minute clip to You Tube. All 12 goals are shown in order with commentary from channel 38.

This is truly beautiful stuff!


Here's a brief recap leading up to this game:

As mentioned, the Bruins were heavily favoured to sweep the Canadiens that April. Boston finished first with 121 points and the Canadiens were 24 points behind in third place with 97. The Habs, who had missed the playoffs the previous spring were by no means weak, but the Bruins had 76 goal scorer Phil Esposito and 102 assist man Bobby Orr in their ranks. The defending Cup champs were a loaded artiliary, thought not to have a single weak link.

Late in the 1970-71 season, Montreal called up Ken Dryden, and it messed big time with what the fates had in mind. Adding the legendary Frank Mahovlich in January also bolstered the Canadiens chances. In two late season games, the Bruins had not faced Dryden, and he was a surprise playoff starter.

As they say, the rest is history, but it would be in Game 2 of the series that the Canadiens began to create the greatest playoff upset of all time, hence seeing to it that the 1971 Bruins and all their weaponry would soon be history as well.

An underlying story of the game is that Bruins' coach Tom Johnson decided to go with netminder Eddie Johnston for Game 2 after Gerry Cheevers had stoned Montreal in Game One in a 3-1 Boston win. It continued a season long goalie rotation trend for Boston, but in hindsight the move was seen as a mistake.

Below are the details of the game's goals, but what is unseen are several timely saves by Dryden that had the Bruins shaking their heads.


Following the video, I'll have a few links for more on the series, as well as some video collection details from Mr. Bouchard.

Enjoy the flashback.

First Period

1 - Montreal: Cournoyer (Béliveau) 3:32

Beliveau pokes the puck loose from Don Awrey (26) at side board, and Cournoyer pounces on it, eluding checker Sanderson (16), skating freely up to Johnston, outwaiting him and beating him high as he sprawls.

1-0 Montreal

Pictured left to right: Cournoyer (12), Eddie Johnston (1), Ted Green (6), Beliveau (4), Sanderson (16), Guy Lapointe (5). Also on the ice are Ferguson (22), Tremblay (3), Westfall (18) and Hodge (8).


2- Boston: Orr (Stanfield, McKenzie) 4:34

Bucyk bumps Harper off the puck as Stanfield picks up a McKenzie pass and feeds Orr cruising into the slot.

1-1 tie

Left to right: Claude Larose (15), Orr (4), Stanfield (17), Pete Mahovlich (20), Laperierre (2), Dryden (29), Tardiff (11), Harper (19), Bucyk (9). Also on the ice are McKenzie (19) and Dallas Smith (20).


3- Boston: Green (Hodge, Esposito) 5:43

Esposito (7) feeds the puck to Green (6) on a breakout pass and he carries it to the Canadiens blueline before backhanding a cross pass to Hodge (8) who feeds it back into the crease for Green, who deflects it past Dryden.

2-1 Boston

Left to right: Richard (16), Tremblay (3), Green (6), Dryden (29), Cashman (12), Lapointe (5), Hodge (8). Also on the ice are Esposito (7), Roberto (17), Awrey (26), Green (6) and an unidentified Canadien.



Boston: Green (minor, unsportsmanlike conduct) 7:27

Boston: Awrey (fighting major) 7:27

Montreal: Tardif (fighting major) 7:27

Roberto (8:14)

Second Period

4 - Boston: McKenzie (Orr, Stanfield) 2:49 PP

With the Canadiens scurrying on a penalty kill, McKenzie (19) seizes a rebound and fires it past Dryden.

3-1 Boston

Left to right: Esposito (7), Dryden (29), Stanfield (17), Roberto (17), Bouchard (26), P. Mahovlich (20), McKenzie (19), Orr (4), and Lapointe (5). Also on the ice is Bucyk (9).


5 - Boston: Cashman (Esposito, Orr) 6:31

Orr (4) scoops the puck from left side board as Harper (19) gives chase. He skates into the slot and passes off to Esposito (7), who dishes a perfect pass to an open Cashman (12) at the crease's lip, who tips it past a sliding Dryden (29).

4-1 Boston

Left to right: Cashman (12), Roberto (17), Dryden (29), Richard (16), Harper (19), Orr (4), Laperriere (2) Esposito (7). Also on the ice are Hodge (8), Dallas Smith (20) and Frank Mahovlich (27).


6 - Boston: Sanderson (Orr, Westfall) 8:41

Westfall (18) passes back to Orr (4) at the point. Sheehan (24) makes a vain attempt at a sweep check and Orr moves in and fires to the right on Dryden (29), where Sanderson tips it in from the side of the net.

5-1 Boston

Left to right: Dryden (29), Sanderson (16), Tremblay (3), Yvan Cournoyer (12), Westfall (18), Laperriere (2), Sheehan (24), Orr (4). Also on the ice is Dallas Smith (20).


7 - Montreal: Richard (unassisted) 15:33

Henri Richard (16) strips Orr of the puck outside the Bruins blueline, outraces a diving Sanderson (16) and Awrey (26) to the Boston goal, where he fakes and dekes Johnston (1) with a backhand.

5-2 Boston

Left to right: Richard (16), Awrey (26) and Johnston (1). Also on the ice are Ferguson (22), Claude Larose (15) and Pierre Bouchard (26).



Montreal: Harper 1:06

Montreal: Larose 7:42

Boston: Awrey 7:42

Boston: Orr 9:59

Montreal: Roberto 15:53

Boston: Sanderson, Boston (banc) 15:33

Boston: Bailey (misconduct) 20:00

Third Period

8 - Montréal: Béliveau (Ferguson, Cournoyer) 2:58 PP

In a clockwise 360 degree circle, all five Canadiens on the powerplay move the puck from start to finish. The play originates at the right boards where Beliveau passes to Roberto, who backhands a pass cross ice to Lapointe (5) high inside the blueline. Lapointe fires a hard pass to Cournoyer (12) on the left side of the net. Cournoyer redirects the puck through the crease to a waiting Ferguson (22) who is checked by Dallas Smith (4). Ferguson's shot is stopped by Johnston, but the rebound bounces to an uncovered Beliveau, who slides it in the open side.

5-3 Boston

Left to right: Smith (20), Lapointe (5), Johnston (1), Westfall (18) and Beliveau (4) just out of picture. Also on the ice are Ferguson (22), Roberto (17), Sanderson (16) and Orr (4).


9 - Montréal: Béliveau (Cournoyer, Ferguson) 4:32

With Ferguson (22) bodying Orr (4) on the left boards, Beliveau (4) streaks in and beats Sanderson (16) to the puck, skating directly to the slot, beating Johnston five-hole with a backhand.

5-4 Boston

Left to right: Orr (4), Sanderson (16), Johnston (1), Ferguson (22), Beliveau (4), Smith (20) and Westfall (18). Also on the ice are Laperriere (2), Cournoyer (12), and Harper (19).


10 - Montréal: Lemaire (unassisted) 9:59

Lemaire (25) intercepts a Ken Hodge (8) pass destined for Orr (4) at the point and breaks in alone to beat Johnston (1) high under the shoulder right side

5-5 tie

Left to right: Johnston (1) and Lemaire (25). Also on the ice are Orr (4), Pete Mahovlich (20), Laperriere (2), Harper (19), Esposito (7) and Hodge (8).


11 - Montréal: Ferguson (Béliveau) 15:23

Beliveau (4) digs out puck from a battle behind the net with Smith (20) and Sanderson (16) and feeds Ferguson (22) in the slot.

6-5 Montreal

Left to right: Johnston (1), Beliveau (4), Smith (20), Orr (4) Ferguson (22) and Sanderson (16). Also on the ice are Cournoyer (12), Esposito (7), Harper (19) and Laperriere (2).


12 - Montréal: F. Mahovlich (Roberto) 18:48

After McKenzie (19) slides a pass to Orr (4) that goes wide through Dryden's crease, Roberto (17) hops on the loose puck and feeds a streaking Frank Mahovlich (27) ,who goes in alone and blasts one from 25 feet out to beat Johnston low to the glove side.

7-5 Montreal

Left to right: Johnston (1) and Frank Mahovlich (27). Also on the ice Richard (16), Harper (19), Laperriere (2), Roberto (17), Orr (4), Esposito (7), McKenzie (19), and Smith (20).



Boston: Esposito 2:17

Montreal: F. Mahovlich 8:34

Boston: Cashman 8:34

Montreal: Béliveau 19:14

Boston: Sanderson 19:14

Montreal: Harper 19:47

Shots on goal:

Montreal: 12-11-14=37

Boston: 14-12-10=36


The Canadiens returned to Montreal two nights later and defeated the Bruins by a 3-1 score, but Boston evened the series at the Forum, winning 5-2 on Sunday April 11. It was now down to a best two of three, on Boston regained control of the series with a rousing 7-3 pounding of the Habs at the Garden. Not to be outdone, the Canadiens admistered a whipping of their own back at the Forum on April 15, dishevelling the Bruins with an 8-3 slaughter. With Dryden stymying the Bruins' attack and the Habs' forwards matching Boston goal for goal, the Habs did the unthinkable in Game 7, putting the leaguers leaders, setters of 14 new offensive records in 1971, to rest with a 4-2.

The hockey world was in shock, and Sports Illustrated dedicated a cover story to the series upset.

Alright now.....you've waited long enough.....let's go to the movies!

All 12 goals from Game 2 of the 1971 Quarter Final. The between clip commentary from the Bruins narrator is precious!

From TQS in the mid 1990's. After a showing of some Patrick Roy heroics, there's highlights of the 1971 Bruins' series starting at the 0:45 mark.

The clip is mostly narrated by Rejean Houle with some imput from Jacques Laperriere and Yvan Cournoyer, and there is a two or three factual errors in their statements. For more on this clip, see Francis' notes at the bottom of the page.

Here's the vid supplied by NHL.com featuring the legendary Dryden save on Chicago's Jim Pappin in the final moments of Game 7 of the 1971 finals.

From the 1971 regular season against Minnesota, some fights and highlights, including Beliveau's 500th goal.

A recap of Game 7 against Chicago, complete with Dryden's robbery of Jim Pappin and a cheesy "Soul Train" soundtrack.

Some notes and details provided by Francis on the series, and what is available to seekers and collectors.

In the second clip, you can see three of the four Montreal goals scored in Game 7 in Boston. One is in black and white, a second is in black and white and also shown in color, and another one is in color. I was able to confirm that the goals were in fact from Game 7 from the book "The Conquering Canadiens", which describes the series in detail, right down to goals scored.


Here are some sample quotes from the book about the Game 7 goals:

"Before the first period ended, Frank Mahovlich scored, using his stick to bat a Lemaire pass out of the air, to capture the puck and put it past a startled Cheevers."

You'll see from the video, it's an amazing goal!

"Then Rejean Houle scored, rapping the rebound of a Peter Mahovlich shot that had struck the goalpost".

This goal is in black and white on the video.

"Just seconds after the start of the third period, Lemaire poked the puck off Orr's stick just inside the Boston blue line. He gave the puck to Frank Mahovlich and the Big M beat Cheevers".

This goal you will see in color and in black and white. If you look carefully at the video, you will see that Lemaire tried to poke the puck off Orr inside the Bruins blueline, but failed. It's actually Mahovlich coming in right after who pokes the puck off Orr right at the blue line. The puck goes to Lemaire still inside the zone and he makes the pass to Mahovlich for an easy looking goal.

It's too bad I don't have the full Game 7 highlights as I have of Game 2. One collector has the full highlights of games 3, 4, 5 and 6. He made copies of a lot of things for me, but he could not make copies of this for me. It seems the video he has is similar to what I sent you (narrated by Tom Larson of WSBK). I think he got the video from the NHL and they didn't want him to make copies.

I don't know if you've read Patskou's blog on Sports On Video (Robert L note: It's the one linked to above) where he says he received Frank Mahovlich one day to show him some video. One of the things Frank really wanted to see was the game 2 highlights. I asked Paul if he showed Mahovlich him the highlights, but he said he had not since it was before he got them from me in 2008.

Frank Mahovlich sure was great in that playoff, but so was Jacques Lemaire. I have wondered why he wasn't on Team Canada '72 for the Summit Series. Perhaps they had enough Canadiens' players on the team that they had to pick elsewhere.

While many Habs players would speak retrospectively of the series, saying that no one had given them the slightest chance, there were a pair of articles in the french papers that had predicted the upset. One such prediction came before the season started from La Patrie, and called for a Montreal / Toronro final. On the eve of the playoffs, they reiterated the prediction. Another delayed prognosis came from former Canadien Claude Provost, in a guest column in Le Petit Journal after Game 2, calling for the Canadiens to take the series.




Francis also notes:

- Dryden faced 286 shots in the series - an average of 41 per game. He made 55 more saves than the Bruins goaltenders in the series.

- The Habs had won only one meeting between the Bruins during the 1970-71 season and it was the first Frank Mahovlich game on January 16, 1971. I have that game on video in black and white. It was broadcasted by the CBC during the players strike in 2005. The Habs lost two games against the Bruins at the end of the season.

(Robert L: One was on March 31, a 6-3 loss with Rogie Vachon in goal, and the other on the last day of the regular season, April 4, a 7-2 loss with Phil Myre in nets.)

- Two other complete Canadiens games exist from that 1970-71 season, one against the Bruins and one against the Rangers, but I don't have access to copies.

- Contrary to what Rejean Houle says during the french feature, Serge Savard was not playing. He had broken his leg for the second time during the season and was out for a good part of the season and the entire playoffs.

- This series was the third time in four years the Canadiens played the Bruins in the playoffs (1968, 1969 and 1971). The complete Game 1 of the 1969 playoffs is available and played occasionnaly on NHL Network and ESPN Classic Canada (Backstrom scores in overtime).

- For the 1969 series, there is a Jean Beliveau overtime goal available on the 1980's Molstar tape "Top 50 Playoff Goals". It is in colour with Danny Gallivan calling the play. It's a very impressive highlight, and the only overtime goal of Beliveau's career. It was the series' clinching goal in the second period of overtime of Game 6 in Boston. Three of the six games went into overtime that series and the Canadiens won all three. Ralph Backstrom and Mickey Redmond scored in overtime in the first two games. That is the oldest colour Canadiens goal highlight from a TV broadcast that I've seen, not including coloured films.

- I've also seen on one of those tapes an Yvan Cournoyer goal in color against the St. Louis Blues. I believe it is also from the 1969 playoffs. I had researched this many years ago. As Dryden was in 1971, Rogie Vachon was very important for the Habs in the 1969 playoffs.

- The paper I have says that 10,000 people were at the Dorval Airport to greet the Canadiens after their win against the Bruins. Wow!

- I have highlights of Game 6 of Montreal / Minnesota semi-final in French with René Lecavalier calling the play, but I legally cannot circulate it.

Here are the results for all Canadiens' games including playoffs for 1970-71 and the individual player stats for that season.

A look back at the series from the Canadiens historical site

A must read on the series.....truly fanstastic - Sports Illustrated, from May 1971

The Gazette - Moment Number 8: A big, bad decision, in which Red Fisher recalls the Bruins goaltending controversy and the effect it had on the outcome of the series.

Sport on Video - Paul Patskou, a hockey researcher and video archivist for the Hockey Hall of Fame discusses the missing Habs / Bruins game.

Southcoast Today.com- Habs a sour slice of playoff "Pie" for Johnny McKenzie

Google Groups- discussion on broadcast crews for all televised game of the 1971 playoffs

Vintage Hockey Videos.com- a sample of some of the available Stanley Cup final videos

8 More Clips From You Tube - Here's a link to five more from 1971 and three from the 1969 Canadiens / Bruins series. The Mahovlich goals that Francis describes are the first two clips listed. Also shown are a pair of Dryden tributes, and some 8mm film of the North Stars series.

Here's the playoff scoring race for 1971, and an article in La Patrie citing Sam Pollock's flair in uniting the Mahovlich brothers.


More evidence of the Canadiens shocking the world in upsetting the Bruins.


A team photo few thought would be taken with hardware two months earlier.


An article from Le Petit Journal: Pete Mahovlich - Quite A Number!


Incidently, April 8, 1971 was also the date of another infamous hockey game, this one played at Madison Square Garden in New York. The scene was Game 2 of the New York Rangers / Toronto Maple Leafs series, and with Toronto leading 4-1 late in the game, a major brawl erupted. The game is best remembered for the Bernie Parent mask incident that highlighted the lengthy scrum. As both goaltenders joined the fray, the Rangers Vic Hadfield acosted Parent from behind, tearing off his mask and tossing into the crowd. When play resumed, Jacques Plante replaced Parent in the Toronto goal, as the latter's mask was nowhere to be found.

This particular contest was shown recently in full on the NHL Network, and it is lamentable that history had not chosen to save the legendary Habs / Bruins game in full instead.

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