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Red Wings Top Leafs on Delvecchio Goal, Take 2-1 Lead in NHL Finals

Apr. 16, 1964 - At Detroit’s Olympia Stadium tonight, the Red Wings edged the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3, in another cardiac classic. Alex Delvecchio scored the winner with just 17 seconds to play after Don McKenney had capped a Toronto three-goal comeback at 18:27 of the third period by tying the game. Detroit’s Floyd Smith scored a pair and Bruce MacGregor scored the other as the Wings took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals.

It was the third straight time this series that the game had been decided or tied in the last two minutes.

This one looked like it wouldn’t be an even match. The Wings poured out and through the juggled Toronto lines in the first period and ran up a 3-0 lead which could have been double that as they outshot the Leafs, 15-9.

But a 20-minute delay between the first and second periods added to the usual 15 minutes or so of rest seemed to cool off the Wings. A late first period shot hit a pane of glass at the south end, and it cracked but didn’t shatter until just after the period ended. There was not replacement glass, and some of the old wire mesh had to be resurrected and installed.

Once play resumed, the Wings struggled to stay with the Leafs, and Toronto got one back on Andy Bathgate’s goal just five seconds after a Wing penalty ended. Wing goalie Terry Sawchuk had no chance on the third period goals by Dave Keon and Don McKenney, and it seemed the Wings were crushed again. They obviously don’t crush easily.

Gordie Howe did the spadework, keeping the puck in the Leaf end, and then he skated in on Leaf goalie Johnny Bower — but he saw Bower hugging the post and Delvecchio open on the other side.

Howe passed across to Delvecchio, who put his stick out and turned it in, just over the goal line, as Leaf defenseman Bob Baun (pictured #21) flattened him. Then Delvecchio was buried under a red wave of Detroiters who streamed off the bench while the horn-honking crowd went delirious.

“It was a bad break, a bad mistake on that winning goal,” Toronto coach Punch Imlach said. “We had two chances to clear the puck out of there, and we didn’t do it. It’s tough to lose like this, coming back the way we did after being down 3-0. But I thought we played real well after that first period.”

And what does this setback mean?

“All it means,” said Imlach, “is that we still have to win three games and the Wings have to win two. Those Wings sure know how to put the pressure on — that’s what is making them so tough. But this series is a long way from over.”

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