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Maple Leafs Take First Game of Stanley Cup Finals

Apr. 11, 1964 - Bob Pulford killed the penalty and killed the Red Wings tonight at Maple Leaf Gardens. Pulford, one of the Leaf players Detroit coach Sid Abel feared the most, grabbed a loose puck at the Toronto blue line, broke away, and scored with two seconds to play to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Wings in Toronto in the first game of the Stanley Cup finals.

Until the third period, the defending Stanley Cup champions had been outplayed by the Wings, who twice took the lead — first on a goal by Bruce MacGregor, and then by Gordie Howe (left).

Howe’s marker, his first of the year against Toronto, was at 10:25 of the first period and stood up until old Wing nemesis George Armstrong scored his second of the night at 4:02 of the final period.

Pulford’s dramatic dash capped what had been a dull game compared to the two clubs’ semifinal efforts.

Referee Frank Udvari whistled off Allan Stanley at 19:18 for holding MacGregor, and a betting man would have looked favorably on Detroit. But with the Leafs shorthanded, Pulford poked the puck away from Norm Ullman, streaked along the boards and took off. Howe chased him but couldn’t reach him. “I thought I had him if he’d taken another stride to the left,” said Howe afterward. “I would have checked him. But I couldn’t reach him, and if I had pulled him down, it would have been a penalty shot anyway.”

Pulford cut in on goalie Terry Sawchuk and beat him with a backhander with two seconds left to win it. The Leafs went wild, and the Wings must feel they’ll never win a 3-2 game. They lost two of them to Chicago in the semifinals. “It’s a tough way to lose,” said Howe. “We had it all over them in the last 10 minutes. If you lose because you’re outplayed, it’s not so bad. But to lose after you had them reeling makes it hard to take.”

Toronto’s George Armstrong, the man who twice put the Leafs back in the game with goals, said he didn’t know how the Wings would take the setback. “It can demoralize a team to lose like that,” he said. “But it can fire you up too. It did that for us when Henri Richard and J.C. Tremblay [of Montreal] scored in the last three minutes against us in that third game of the semifinals. We’d had it all over them up to then.”

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