"Look," Esposito said after the fifth game. "I don't want to downgrade Vachon. He was great tonight. But half the time I was just standing there in front of him. All I had to do was shoot. So what do I do? Fire wide or straight into his pads, that's what. I wish I knew what's wrong."
So the series moved back to the Boston Garden, where Montreal had not won all year and where the Bruins had not lost a game since Christmas. With their back to its graffiti-covered walls, the Bruins took a 1-0 lead within the first three minutes when Esposito fed a soft pass from behind the net to Ron Murphy, who put an even softer shot past Vachon, who was clearly expecting a scorcher. The lead stood up during the rest of a thrilling period. The Bruins picked up momentum in the second period, in which they outshot Montreal 22-8—but halfway through it came the turning point of the game. At 9:21 John Ferguson was sent off for elbowing, and 36 seconds later Montreal Coach Claude Ruel drew a bench penalty for directing language no saint should use at Referee Art Skov. This left Boston with a two-man advantage for a minute and 24 seconds and a chance to get a commanding lead. But the Canadiens were never better. Vachon, diving, sprawling and kicking out some unbelievable shots, simply would not let the Bruins in. In front of him the Montreal penalty killers—led by Jacques Laperriere and Ted Harris—were magnificent. When both penalties had been served, the Canadiens still trailed by that one puny goal.
Early in the third period Boston's Don Awrey was sent off for charging. Beliveau won the face-off and sent the puck to Serge Savard at the right point. Savard wound up and fired a 40-footer that struck the ice and skipped past Cheevers. And so for the third time in the series Montreal had come from behind to tie. At the other end, Vachon was unbeatable. At 7:20 he deflected a shot from Fred Stanfield wide of Johnny Bucyk, who was on the Montreal doorstep. At 10:30 he stopped Sanderson—not wholly recovered from his injury—in close. With 1:18 remaining, Dick Duff could not handle a pass at the Boston goal mouth which might have been converted, and then back went the Bruins at Vachon, who stopped a thrust by Bobby Orr. With three seconds left Laperriere made a beautiful play, knocking down Orr's slap shot from 30 feet.
The game proceeded into overtime, and, even though the Bruins had not beaten Montreal in overtime in 23 years, they had not lost their verve. Heaven knows they had chances to score; at one point Esposito, alone at the right post, took a pass from Orr and shot wide. At mid-period Vachon stopped successive shots by Orr, then smothered a rebound by John McKenzie. The Canadiens were reeling, but Hodge and Esposito rounded out the period by missing with shots from 15 feet.
Second overtime. The teams were tired, as were the 15,000 fans. Hodge missed the net. Ted Green missed the net. A shot by Esposito grazed a goalpost. After four minutes Hodge and Murphy messed up a two-on-one break, and three minutes later Vachon made a rather miraculous stop on Ed Westfall.
Then Beliveau got his chance. Boston's Awrey broke out of his own end and aimed a pass at Murphy, who was starting up the left side. Little Claude Provost, another old Hab who had been nothing but poison for Boston, intercepted for Montreal, and the teams wheeled back into the Bruins' zone. Provost, with John Ferguson to his right and Beliveau to his left, faced Ted Green. He passed to Beliveau at the rim of the face-off circle.
"I gave Claude a little yell and he gave me the puck," said Beliveau. "I saw a lot of net over the left shoulder. It was a wrist shot. Twenty feet. I shot and hoped."
"As soon as the puck hit Beliveau's stick it was gone," said Cheevers. "By the time I got organized the puck was going over my shoulder and into the net."
The red light stayed on. Cheevers slammed his stick into the boards. Hodge swung with both hands and cracked his over the crossbar. Awrey, his arms covering his head, went face down on the ice in front of the net. Claude Ruel picked up Cheevers' stick and waddled from player to player, banging them on the pads in a mood of total joy, for this was his first Canadien team and the year had not been easy.
Later, much later, Sanderson sat alone in the Boston dressing room. "How do you explain it?" he said. "They don't have the team, the defense, the talent or the guts. But they get the goals."