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Tough mountain to climb
Mark Mulvoy
May 15, 1972
The Stanley Cup summit seemed an inaccessible Everest to New York as Bobby Orr's Bruins won a crucial game to lead commandingly
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May 15, 1972

Tough Mountain To Climb

The Stanley Cup summit seemed an inaccessible Everest to New York as Bobby Orr's Bruins won a crucial game to lead commandingly

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After 29 penalties and seven fistfights the game between the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers was over. Bobby Orr had won it for the Bruins, scoring two goals early in the first period and then setting up Don Marcotte for the winning shot as the Bruins defeated the Rangers 3-2 last Sunday at Madison Square Garden and took an imposing three-games-to-one lead in their unholy war for the Stanley Cup. Twice during the game Orr had to go to the dressing room for treatment of his injured left knee. "We kept ice on it, wrapped tape around it and also put a pressure bandage on it," Trainer Dan Canney said. Now Orr sat on a bench, sipping ginger ale and wiping perspiration from his face.

"How's your knee?" someone asked.

"I feel fine, just fine," he answered. "There's nothing wrong with me." As Orr spoke Canney was wrapping another bandage around the knee.

The Rangers had come to bury Orr—but they left praising him. "He was playing hurt, real hurt, and it was so obvious," said Ranger Coach Emile Francis. "But he did the job and won the game for them." Perhaps Brad Park of the Rangers said it best: "I wish I was hurt like that."

Poor Park. No matter how well he plays the NHL's second-best defenseman cannot escape Orr's giant shadow. "Brad," his teammates tease, "you wear No. 2 now. Someday maybe you'll be good enough to wear No. 3, and if Orr retires before you do, well, maybe then you'll get to be No. 4."

Unfortunately for the Rangers, Park frequently has played his worst hockey against Orr and the Bruins. In 75 games this season he seined 24 goals and 49 assists for 73 points. However, in his six games against Orr and Boston, he got no goals and only one assist. This pattern continued into the playoffs while the Rangers were losing the first two games in the Boston Garden. In the first Park allowed Garnet (Ace) Bailey, a reserve center, to skate around him and beat Eddie Giacomin for the winning goal late in the third period. In the second game he repeatedly mishandled the puck as the Rangers failed to convert any of their seven power-play chances and ultimately lost 2-1.

It was thanks mostly to Park, however, that the Great Boston Hex cracked quite abruptly in the third game, a contest played in Madison Square Garden amid a hail of transistor batteries, cigarette lighters, 50� pieces, beer cans (empty), shaving cans (filled), bags of cashew nuts ("very tasty," said Boston Goaltender Gerry Cheevers, who stopped one sack with the back of his neck) and rolls of pink toilet paper. The fans, relentless Boston haters, were aiming the missiles at the Bruins and cheering happily as Park revived the Rangers and led them to a 5-2 victory.

"As much as I hate to admit it," Phil Esposito said afterward, "Park was the difference." Park won it in the first 13 minutes of the first period. Three times he produced goals on the Ranger power play, scoring two himself and setting up Rod Gilbert for a third when his dead-on blast from 30 feet left Cheevers in no position to stop Gilbert on the rebound. Perhaps more important, though, Park also helped destroy the Boston power play three times—an assault that has been the most destructive force in hockey—when Orr, Esposito and friends had opportunities to take immediate command of the game and the series.

"When you have that many chances early in a game and don't take advantage of them," Orr said, "it's pretty difficult to stay charged up the rest of the way. And it's worse when the other team scores three straight goals on its power play."

Meanwhile, Orr, though still a superior player, was not the magical man he can be. "His knee must really be bad," Park said. "He didn't rush the puck very often, and when our forecheckers pressed him he didn't seem to have the mobility to get around them the way he used to. I mean, when have you seen Orr lose the puck to the forecheckers?" Orr reinjured his knee 10 weeks ago and will have operation No. 4—tying him with Joe Willie Namath for the national championship—this summer. He has been forced to concentrate primarily on his defensive duties, rushing the puck only out of necessity.

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