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Canadiens Finish Regular Season with Best Record in NHL

Mar. 22, 1964 - The Montreal Canadiens, who needed two weekend victories to make sure of their 14th NHL title in history, followed up Saturday’s one-sided 5-1 win over Boston with a tremendous team effort tonight to defeat the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, 2-1.

Big Jean Beliveau (left) gave Montreal the opening goal, scoring on the rebound of Bernard Geoffrion’s power-play shot. However, Bobby Nevin, the former Leaf, completed a play with Rod Gilbert to beat Montreal’s Charlie Hodge, this season’s Vezina Trophy winner, for the equalizer.

Then the Rangers took command, and only a couple of near misses kept them from taking the lead. Gilbert shot past a wide-open net, Don Marshall hit the post with Hodge beat, and the little goalie made a tremendous leg save on Phil Goyette on his doorstep.

The winning goal came in the fifth minute of the third period as the line of Andre Boudrias, John Ferguson, and Geoffrion forced the play in the New York zone. When Ferguson banged a hard shot off the far goal post, Geoffrion quickly snapped the puck past Jacques Plante for his 21st goal of the season.

The tally sent the Habs into the Stanley Cup semifinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The first two games are set for the Montreal Forum Thursday and Saturday.

Montreal coach Toe Blake, who has now guided the Canadiens to six league championships in nine years as coach, said tonight’s triumph was a team effort all the way.

“In fact,” said Toe, “if ever there was a team effort to win the title, this was it. Nobody expected too much from these fellows at the start of the season, but they never quit all year.”

Someone asked Blake if he ever thought the Canadiens had the title in the bag this season.

“Yes, tonight,” grinned the coach, “when we were leading 2-1 with two seconds to go.”

Team captain Jean Beliveau was asked if he ever though Montreal might finish first.

“Well, I know we couldn’t be as bad as fourth or fifth the way a lot of the experts said we were,” said Jean. “When we got into first place by beating Chicago a few times after Christmas, I figured we had a chance, and Charlie Hodge did a great job for us. He certainly deserves the Vezina Trophy.”


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