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Canadiens-Bruins: 1971


MONTREAL | April 14th, 2009
Canadiens-Bruins: 1971
Before the puck drops on the 32nd playoff meeting between the Canadiens and Bruins, let’s take a look at how the postseason hostility came to be what is today.  First up, 1971.

That spring, Boston was heavily favored, having bested Montreal by 24 points at the end of the regular season.  Despite the gap, few playoff games have seen a turnaround to the extent of the April 8, 1971 tilt at Boston Garden.

In Game 2 of the Habs-B’s quarterfinal series, the Bruins jumped out to a 5-1 lead before Henri Richard lit the lamp near the end of the second period, cutting the lead to three goals.  Despite the deficit, the Canadiens weren’t about to give up.

The club exploded for five goals in the final frame to skate away with a 7-5 win, and even the series, 1-1.

Motivation for the incredible rally is traced back to encouraging words from captain Jean Beliveau.

“It was a question of personal pride, team spirit and, of course, all the predictions that the Bruins would undoubtedly dominate the Canadiens with ease,” he was quoted in the April 25, 1971 edition of the La Patrie newspaper.

Those words would mark the turning point in the series. Beliveau himself backed up his words, finishing the night with a pair of goals and assists; he didn’t waste time to net his two tallies, the goals coming within the first five minutes of the third period.

Leading the series 2-1 after Game 3, the Canadiens fell in the next two tilts, scoring just four while allowing 12. The Bruins may have believed a pass to the next round was well entrenched in their pockets at that time, but the determination of Cournoyer, Beliveau, Mahovlich, Tremblay and others clearly hadn’t crossed their minds.

The Montreal Forum would host Game 6 and the Habs had no intention of an early end to their campaign at home. Thanks to an 8-2 rout, hope still springs.

That set the table for a seventh and deciding game in Boston. Skating before a hostile crowd at the Garden, the Canadiens emerged victorious, sending the Bruins’ packing on their way to their 17th Stanley Cup.

The 1971 Playoffs would turn out to be a breakout year for Frank Mahovlich, who notched a league-best 27 points to set a Canadiens record; Mahovlich alone was responsible for seven of Montreal’s 27 goals against Boston.  Rookie goaltender Ken Dryden also enjoyed a coming out party, facing an average of 41 shots over 60 minutes per game. He even stood out in a 7-3 loss in Game 5, stopping 49 of 56 shots directed his way.