The Pittsburgh Penguins’ dramatic triple-overtime victory in their Stanley Cup series with the Detroit Red Wings brought back fond memories of another three-overtime playoff game: March 26, 1961 at the Chicago Stadium.
It was game three in the best-of-seven semifinal series with the Blackhawks facing the heavily-favored Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens, who had won the previous five Stanley Cups, had won the opening game of the series by a convincing 6-2 margin. In game two, however, the upstart Hawks stunned the Habs at the Forum 4-3.
The Blackhawks were eager to avenge their defeat at the hands of Montreal in the 1960 playoffs; the Hawks had been embarrassed, losing in a four-game sweep, including two shutouts in Chicago by future Hall of Fame goaltender Jacques Plante.
|Glenn Hall |
The Hawks were clinging to a 1-0 lead going into the 3rd period, the lone goal belonging to the Hawks’ Murray Balfour. The Stadium crowd cheered wildly as the old scoreboard clock wound down to the final thirty seconds of regulation with the Hawks holding that one-goal lead.
Montreal head coach Toe Blake had pulled Plante for an extra attacker when Henri Richard took a pass from Jean Beliveau and slipped the puck past Blackhawks goalie Glenn Hall to send it into overtime.
Hall and Plante kept each other’s team at bay in brilliant performances for two overtime periods. Both teams seemed exhausted entering the third overtime with the hour approaching 2 am.
In the third OT, Balfour fired a shot past Plante for the game-winner at the 12:12 mark of the period. At 112 minutes long, the game is still a Blackhawks record for their longest home playoff contest.
The venerable Blake blasted the officiating following the game and was fined a "whopping" $2,000 by the league.
However, even Blake’s ranting couldn't stop the Hawks as Chicago eventually won the series in six games, ending Montreal's dream of a 6th straight Cup and sending Chicago to the finals for the first time since 1944.
Behind the goaltending of Hall, and the outstanding play of Hawks legends Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Bill Hay, the Hawks defeated the Red Wings for their first Stanley Cup since 1938.