The Devils are looking to make some history, rallying from 0-3 to win the Stanley Cup against the Kings. As you’d expect from the franchise with the most Cup championships in hockey, the Canadiens can lay claim to some of that history.
Yes, the 1942 Maple Leafs are the only team to rally from 0-3 to win the Cup but — like those Leafs — the 1966 Habs also lost the first two games of the final on home ice to the Red Wings. After that, they came storming back to win four consecutive games and their second consecutive Cup championship of the four they won during the 1960s.
Of course, they almost fell behind by two games against the Kings in ’93, and only the Marty McSorley illegal stick penalty, followed by two late goals from Eric Desjardins, including the OT winner, enabled them to even the series going back to L.A. In ’79, they lost the first game to the Rangers on home ice and trailed 2-0 early in Game 2, but roared back to win in five.
In ’66, however, they did fall behind with two losses on home ice. The Canadiens had won the Prince of Wales Trophy (then given to the first place team in the regular season) for the second time in three years and eighth in the previous 11. The Wings had finished 16 points behind them, but unexpectedly defeated the second place Black Hawks in seven games of the first round while the Habs swept the Leafs in a brawl filled series and then had 10 days off before the final.
Detroit was a veteran team, with future Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Andy Bathgate, Bill Gadsby, Norm Ullman and Leo Boivin, all in their 30s. But two younger players gave the Wings a big lift. Bryan Watson, 23, who had started his career with Montreal, harassesed Bobby Hull all series. And another 23-year-old, goalie Roger Crozier, the Calder Trophy winner a season earlier, was at his acrobatic best.
They continued their exceptional play in the first two games, Crozier making 33 saves in a 3-2 Game 1 win, and super-pest Watson distracting the Habs, goading John Ferguson into a costly Game 2 elbowing penalty that led to a big Wings goal. The distracted Habs chased Watson all over the ice — and finally caught him with Dick Duff, Jean-Guy Talbot and Henri Richard all taking runs at the guy called “Bugsy.” He wasn’t as effective the rest of the series. But, after winning Game 2 by 5-2, the Red Wings started to believe the Cup might be theirs.
Unhappy with his team’s performance, Toe Blake called up forward Leon Rochefort from the Quebec Aces. He replaced Claude Larose who had not been backchecking well enough to suit Blake. Rochefort was put on a line with Richard and Dave Balon for Game 3. Even though Rochefort was not very adept offensively, he played a responsible game and that gave Blake a good second line.
“After that less than lustrous start, they outskated, outhit and outfinessed the Wings with some of the best hockey seen in many a year,” wrote Martin Kane in Sports Illustrated.
The newly formed Richard line scored key goals in the final, the first after Detroit opened the scoring in Game 3; Balon answered it and then Jean Beliveau, after stealing the puck from Delvecchio, put the Habs in front to stay before the first period ended. Gilles Tremblay, who did a magnificent job shadowing the 38-year-old Howe all series, scored int the third and the Habs won 4-2.
Canadiens goalie Gump Worsley told Dick Irvin for his oral history The Habs, that after Game 3, he spoke with Gadsby, his old Rangers teammate and Gadsby — a 20 year NHL veteran who had never won the Cup — told him, “We’re gonna go down again.”
To relax his troops, Blake handed Beliveau a couple of hundred dollars to take the team out to dinner. It worked. Worsley started to outplay Crozier and the Habs took the body at every opportunity. Howe scored only one goal in the final, and Tremblay wasn’t on the ice for that one. Gadsby seemed like a prophet when Crozier was hurt early in Game 4. Replaced by Hank Bassen, the Habs won again 2-1 to tie the series and Dick Duff, with two assists, was brilliant.
Back in Montreal, Crozier returned for Game 5, but the Habs revved it up and won 5-1, a serious blowout. Wings coach Sid Abel constantly juggled his lines to get something going. “All of a sudden, the Forum fans loved us again,” Ferguson remembered in his autobiography.
Game 6 was back in Detroit and the Habs jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Beliveau and Rochefort. The Wings quickly got it to 2-1, then tied it midway in the third. The Gumper made a big save on Howe late in regulation to send it to OT. Early in the fourth period, Worlsey again made a big stop to keep the Habs alive. That’s when one of the most controversial goals in Stanley Cup play ended it for the Habs.
With a little more than two minutes gone in OT, as you see in the video, Richard broke in the zone, passed it to Balon who returned it to Richard driving the net. Doug Barkley of the Wings cut down Richard but the puck ended up under the Pocket Rocket’s elbow. As Richard and Barkley slid uncontrollably to the end boards, the puck ended up past Crozier. The Habs raised their sticks, the red light went on and referee Frank Udvari didn’t seem to know what to do.
As soon as the puck went in, Blake yelled to the players on the bench, “Get out on the ice! Get out on the ice!” Whether the Habs celebration persuaded him or not, Udvari ruled it a good goal and the Cup winner.
The Wings complained Richard gloved it over the line, but in the Original Six era, 25 years before the dawn of video review, the decision was the referee’s alone and the goal stood.
Crozier was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, the first player on a losing team to receive it, but the Habs got the big prize and a bonus of $5,750 for winning it. On the train ride back from Detroit to Montreal, they partied all night and when they arrived home, Windsor Station jammed with fans, they made their way to Henri Richard’s tavern on Avenue du Park above Rue Sherbrooke for breakfast and more celebration.