Per custom, Francis removed Giacomin, who had played sensationally in goal, with 54 seconds remaining in the game and replaced him with an extra attacker. But rather than send out his complete first or second line, Francis waved both MacGregor and Stemkowski onto the ice. Of all the Rangers, Stemkowski is probably the best clutch player. He is also one of the game's top faceoff artists. In the next 33 seconds there were five faceoffs deep inside the Montreal zone. On the fifth, working against Henri Richard, Stemkowski batted the puck against the boards. Richard and Frank Mahovlich tried to control it but it rolled back to New York's Brad Park at the point. Park skated to his left and moved closer to the net, then fired a chest-high bullet at Larocque. As the Montreal goaltender juggled the puck, Stemkowski grazed him and the puck squirted loose, dropped to the ice and rolled to Larocque's left. There was MacGregor, and before Larocque could react the puck was in the net. Overtime.
And here was the Polish Prince again. After slightly more than four minutes of the extra session, there was a faceoff to Larocque's left. Montreal Coach Scotty Bowman sent out Lemaire to face Stemkowski. "Drop the puck in the middle," Lemaire warned the linesman. "Don't give it to him." On the bench, though, Bowman had a better idea. He recalled Lemaire and replaced him with Peter Mahovlich, who seemed a better match for Stemkowski's strength. Mahovlich said nothing to the linesman. The puck dropped flat onto the ice, and, easily beating Mahovlich, Stemkowski snatched it with his backhand and slid it back to Harris at the edge of the circle.
"Before the game I called my wife and told her if the game went into overtime I'd score the winning goal," Harris said. "She told me I was a liar. She had a point, too, because I got only two goals all season."
Well, Harris blasted the puck right past Larocque, who was screened by several players, touching off a wild Ranger celebration. In the Montreal dressing room, Bowman studied a statistical summary of the game. "Look at this," he said. "MacGregor: six shots on goal, two goals. Cournoyer: two shots on goal, no goals. Unless that changes, we are in trouble."
It didn't—and the Canadiens were. They took the lead again in the sixth game, 2-0 on goals by Richard and Steve Shutt, and Cournoyer even got an assist, but once again MacGregor and the poor four rallied the Rangers. MacGregor took a pass from Park, slipped between two Montreal defensemen and faked Larocque out of position before scoring on an easy backhander. Forty-six seconds later the Rangers tied the score, and they went ahead in the third period on a play initiated by Irvine. For good measure, Stemkowski buried the Canadiens with two empty-net goals 18 seconds apart in the final minute of play.
In three games MacGregor had out-shot Cournoyer nine to five and out-scored him four to nothing, leaving Bowman with a strange look on his face. "I didn't think New York had anyone who could slow Yvan down," he said. "I thought Gene Carr was the only New York player who could skate with him, and they traded Carr to Los Angeles. That MacGregor, he's pretty smart."
And the poor four may not be that much longer. "As it happens," MacGregor says, "we are all in the last year of our contracts. I'd say that what we did against Montreal puts us in good bargaining position. Now we have something to point to when we sit down and talk money with Emile."
Having defeated the defending champions for the third straight spring—but won no cup themselves for 34—the Rangers bussed down the New Jersey Turnpike to open play with the feisty Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday in the semifinals, but not even the poor four could bail out the lifeless millionaires this time. The Flyers bullied the Rangers relentlessly, crashing them against the boards and knocking them to the ice with abandon in a 4-0 thrashing. New York managed only five shots against Goal-tender Bernie Parent in the first 30 minutes, and Parent did not have to stop anything difficult until the last seven minutes of the third period. "It was a perfect game for us," exulted Flyer Captain Bobby Clarke.
In the other semifinal series at Boston, the score in the family affair involving the Brothers Esposito was Tony one and Phil one. In the first game Tony repeatedly frustrated brother Phil and the rest of the Bruins by making 46 saves as the Black Hawks scored an upset 4-2 victory on John Marks' goal with slightly more than three minutes left to play. Then, on Sunday afternoon national television Phil and the Bruins walloped Tony 8-6. Nothing poor about that game but the defenses.