Sanderson easily, and half a dozen Montreal checkers kept Esposito tightly
guarded whenever Phil was near Dryden. Meanwhile, Dryden got an assist on one
of Peter Mahovlich's goals, and when the public-address man announced it the
Forum crowd stood and cheered the goaltender for a solid minute.
inconsistently. "I don't know what's the matter," he said. "I want
to go, but when I turn it on I don't go anywhere." He thought for a moment.
"I'd better go when I turn it on Sunday. We'd all better. Cripes."
As most of North
America knows by now Orr did not go, ending that remarkable affair and
permitting some reflection on the other playoff battles. New York and Minnesota
managed to settle their feuds with Toronto and St. Louis in six games, and
Chicago, of course, had required only four games to dispose of Philadelphia.
For the Rangers—who rallied behind Eddie Giacomin's goaltending and some sudden
goal scoring by their captain, Bob Nevin—it was the first time in 21 years they
had won any kind of a series in Stanley Cup play. For the North Stars—who
turned to Gump Worsley, one of the two NHL goalies who still refuse to wear a
mask, and a former collegian named Lou Nanne for urgent help after they lost
two of their first three games—it marked the first time in three playoffs that
they had defeated their bitter mid-country rivals, the Blues, and it also meant
that for the first time since expansion the Blues would not be playing in the
final cup series.
The Rangers seemed
to have a simple game plan for the Maple Leafs. From the start they directed
their attack at crusty old Bob Baun, the very good Leaf defenseman who is the
one steadying influence on the other Toronto defenders, all of whom are in
their early 20s. While doing this, though, the Rangers forgot to play the
close-checking hockey that has made them a good team. As a result they barely
squeaked past Toronto 5-4 in the first game, lost the second game 4-1 and then
lost the third game 3-1. When Giacomin allowed eight goals in the first two
games he was replaced by Gilles Villemure. Indeed, it seemed that Giacomin's
history of poor playoff performances was being replayed.
Francis, the New York coach and general manager, went back to Giacomin for the
fourth game—a critical one for the Rangers. And suddenly Giacomin played like
the Giacomin of the regular season. He limited the Maple Leafs to four goals in
the next three games, and the Rangers won all three. The last was best, a
masterpiece of suspense as Nevin scored nearly 10 minutes into sudden-death
overtime to win for the Rangers 2-1. Ironically, Nevin has been the least
favorite Ranger among the fans at Madison Square Garden. "The first time I
make a bad play in the Garden I'll get the same old business from the
fans," Nevin said before the Rangers flew to Chicago for the opener in
their semifinal series with Chicago, which they also won 2-1 in overtime.
When Nevin was
scoring his winning goal, the organist at The Met in Bloomington, Minn. was
just starting to play Bye, Bye, Blues, and the 15,370 packed into the rink
began to serenade the visitors from St. Louis, who, at the time, were losing
5-2. Then the place fell quiet. "I told the organist to stop," said
North Stars Coach Jack Gordon, "because I wanted to win the series
first—and then celebrate." The score remained 5-2—and, boy, did the North
since the first days of expansion, the Blues and the North Stars had waged
continuous guerrilla warfare that St. Louis always seemed to win. But not this
time. Worsley stepped into the goal last Sunday night and, despite a pulled
groin muscle, he stopped the Blues 2-1 to even the series at two games apiece.
Gump played superbly in Minnesota Tuesday when the North Stars, on a last-gasp
goal by Lou Nanne, upset the Blues 4-3, and he was strong again in the 5-2
victory Thursday that won the series. For Worsley it was a profitable week.
Gump has a $37,500 base salary, and he gets a bonus of $500 for each victory.
The three wins over the Blues, then, were worth an extra $1,500—in addition to
the $2,250 he earned by playing on a winning quarterfinal team.
For all their
trouble, the North Stars immediately got more—Montreal. Much would depend on
Gump Worsley, nature's most successful copy of the fireplug—and a man who hates
to fly. When last seen, however, the Gumper didn't really need an airplane.
As for Bobby Orr,
he said, "I'm going to go home and practice playing hockey."