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Leafs Square NHL Semifinal with Habs at 1-1

Mar. 28, 1964 - “What’s that story about the streetcar named Desire that was pretty hard to catch? Well, that was Frank Mahovlich [pictured] tonight. It took him a long time to find desire, but when he did the Canadiens couldn’t catch him.”

The orator was George (Punch) Imlach, hockey coach, just after his Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, tonight to even their Stanley Cup semifinal series at one game apiece.

Mahovlich, the 26-year-old forward with new life at center after almost seven seasons on the wing, was virtually flying in his greatest performance at the Montreal Forum. He got the Leafs off to a winning start by setting up Red Kelly for the first goal and then scored himself less than four minutes later in the first period.

Imlach considered the big fellow’s performance “his best game in the last three years” — going back to the 1960-61 season when Frank scored 48 goals.

With that 2-0 jump, the Leafs were in full command as they beat the Canadiens at their own game, skating and digging. Only a couple of wide shots plus some fine saves by Hab goalie Charlie Hodge kept the visitors from taking a bigger lead. Jean Beliveau scored the lone Montreal goal in the second period, beating Johnny Bower with a sizzler from the left circle.

Montreal, who “certainly didn’t quit,” according to coach Toe Blake, made a fight of it, and only inches kept them from sending the game into overtime in the last minute of play. Bower was way out of his net after making a tremendous save on a shot from Jacques Laperriere, but the Habs were unable to put the rebound into the open cage.

“I reached as far as I could, but the puck was still a foot off the end of my stick,” said Beliveau afterward. “When I did get it, I was past the net and Bower was back.”

Coach Blake felt his team played well enough in the latter half of the game “but they got the jump on us when we made a few mistakes in that first period.”

“Now, we will just have to win one of those two games in Toronto,” said Toe, pointing to the third and fourth contests of the best-of-seven series at Maple Leaf Gardens, Tuesday and Thursday.


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