Forty years ago, the hockey world fundamentally was changed by the start of an eight-game series between national teams from Canada, loaded with NHL players in their prime, and the Soviet Union -- considered the two best hockey-playing nations in the world at the time -- that played out across the month of September. The series was a must-follow for hockey fans across the globe and after its dramatic conclusion --- a 4-3-1 series win for the Canadians -- there was no question that the NHL never would be the same again. This month, NHL.com looks at the historic Summit Series with a month-long collection of content. Today, NHL.com provides a look back at Game 4 of the series from some of those who helped make the history happen. Stay tuned for additional content throughout September (Game 1 recap, Game 2 recap, Game 3 recap)
Watching their heroes blow a pair of two-goal leads and having to settle for a 4-4 tie in Game 3 of the Summit Series in Winnipeg didn't make Team Canada fans happy. Game 4 at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver on Sept. 8, 1972, wound up making them even unhappier.
Injuries cost Canada both members of one of its best defensive pairs, as Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard of the Montreal Canadiens sat out. Even more costly was a pair of early penalties to Bill Goldsworthy, who had been inserted into the lineup to add energy. He was called for cross-checking at 1:24 and elbowing at 5:58 -- and Boris Mikhailov capitalized on both to give the Soviet Union a 2-0 lead after one period.
To say this wasn't the start Team Canada had envisioned would be putting it mildly.
GAME 4: SOVIET UNION 5, CANADA 3
Vancouver fans booed Team Canada off the ice after a 5-3 loss to the Soviet Union in Game 4 of the Summit Series, triggering an emotional postgame outburst from Phil Esposito.
First Period: 1, USSR, Mikhailov 2 (Lutchenko, Petrov), 2:01 (pp). 2, USSR, Mikhailov 3 (Lutchenko, Petrov) 7:29 (pp).
Second Period: 3, Canada, Perreault 1, 5:37. 4, USSR, Blinov 1 (Petrov, Mikhailov), 6:34. 5, USSR, Vikulov 1 (Kharlamov, Maltsev), 13:52.
Third Period: 6, Canada, Goldsworthy 1, (P. Esposito, Bergman), 6.54. 7. USSR, Shadrin 1 (Yakushev, Vasiliev), 11:05. 8, Canada, D. Hull 1 (P. Esposito), 19:38.
Shots on Goal: Soviet Union 11-14-6--31. Canada 10-8-23--41.
Goalies: Soviet Union, Tretiak 2-1-1 (41 shots on goal, 38 saves). Canada, Dryden 0-2-0 (31-26).
"We really looked forward to Vancouver," forward Paul Henderson told NHL.com. "We figured if we won that one we'd be in good shape. But they got two power-play goals in the first seven or eight minutes and they took us right out of the game."
A spectacular individual effort on a goal by Gilbert Perreault early in the second period cut the deficit to 2-1. But the Soviets then made mincemeat of Canada's defense to take a three-goal lead. Vladimir Petrov set up Yuri Blinov for a goal on a 2-on-1 break at 6:34 -- 57 seconds after Perreault scored. Vladimir Vikulov then beat goalie Ken Dryden from the slot at 13:52 with Canada's defense far out of position.
"We had to open things up to try to score," Henderson said, "and any time you did that with them, they could hurt you badly with their transition game.
"I think the worst game we played in the series was in Vancouver."
With the 15,570 fans growing edgier by the minute, Goldsworthy gave them a little hope by beating Russia goalie Vladislav Tretiak at 6:54 of the third period. But a goal by Vladimir Shadrin with 8:55 remaining removed any suspense about the outcome, and Dennis Hull's last-minute goal did nothing but make the 5-3 final score look closer than the game had been.
"We weren't in condition to play at that kind of level physically," Bob Clarke told NHL.com. "We were lousy in Vancouver. It was like the bottom dropped out."
Canada outshot the Soviets 23-6 in the third period, but many of them were from the outside, and Tretiak -- now an emerging international star in goal -- had no trouble keeping his team in front.
"We were never in the game," Team Canada coach Harry Sinden told reporters. "They just took control, and as hard as we tried, we seemed to get a little worse all the time."
Rod Gilbert, still upset 40 years later at having a goal waved off in the second period when it was ruled he kicked the puck into the net, said the score "could have been elevated a lot more than that. We were still getting into shape. Those guys were more serious than us."
Boos rained down on Team Canada as the players left the ice, leading to one of the most famous outbursts in hockey history. Phil Esposito, who had become one of the team leaders during the four games in Canada, blasted back at the fans who were booing.
"To the people across Canada, we tried. We gave it our best," he said during a postgame TV interview. "To the people who booed us, geez, all of us guys are really disheartened. We're disillusioned and disappointed. We cannot believe the bad press we've got, the booing we've got in our own building.
"I'm completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Every one of us guys -- 35 guys -- we came out because we love our country. Not for any other reason. … We came because we love Canada."
With a two-week break before the series resumed in Moscow, the Soviets headed home justly proud of their 2-1-1 showing in North America. Team Canada reconvened in Toronto two days later to head for Stockholm and some exhibition games against Sweden before Game 5 on Sept. 22. Only a handful of well-wishers bothered to show up and see them off.