Game 5 loss pushed Canada to brink in Summit Series
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.
Two weeks after being booed off the ice in Vancouver, Canada understandably felt pretty much alone as the second half of the Summit Series began on Sept. 22, 1972. They named themselves "Team 50," representing the 50 players, coaches, trainers and other personnel who made the trip for the four games in Moscow's Luzhniki Ice Palace.
But surprisingly, the fan support the team hadn't gotten at home was very much in evidence on the road.
Nearly 3,000 Canadian fans made the trip to Moscow, forming a red-clad island of noise in an otherwise stoic gathering of 15,000 people. Tens of thousands more Canadians sent telegrams of support that were passed among the players in the dressing room. It was the kind of support that had largely been missing during the four games in Canada.
GAME 5: SOVIET UNION 5, CANADA 4
The Soviet Union scored five third-period goals on just 11 shots for a stunning 5-4 victory in Game 5 to open up a 3-1-1 lead over Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series.
First Period: 1, Canada, Parise 2 (Perreault, Gilbert), 15:30.
Shots on goal: Canada 12-13-12--37. Soviet Union 9-13-11-33.
Goalies: Canada, T. Esposito 1-1-1 (33 shots on goal, 28 saves). Soviet Union, Tretiak 3-1-1 (37-33).
"It certainly became a highly charged atmosphere, especially when we got down and had to go to Russia and try to win," Paul Henderson told NHL.com. "It took on a whole different dimension from our point of view. I would say unequivocally that without the 3,000 Canadian fans that came with us, I don't think we would have won the series. They were such an inspiration. They were incredible."
There were 13 days between Games 4 and 5, with Canada preparing for the bigger international ice surface by playing two games in Sweden -- winning 4-1 and tying 4-4 -- that featured a lot of stick work by the Swedes (Wayne Cashman needed 50 stitches to close a cut in his mouth after being high-sticked) and rough play by international standards from the Canadians.
Being away from home appeared to be serving as a bonding experience for Canada, which dominated the first two periods of Game 5. J.P. Parise opened the scoring 15:30 into the game, and second-period goals by Bob Clarke and Henderson made it 3-0 after 40 minutes.
The Soviets got on the board early in the third period, but Henderson scored again at 4:56 -- only a few minutes after crashing headfirst into the boards and lying motionless for several moments before being helped off the ice. Fortunately for Henderson, he was wearing a helmet, and he talked coach Harry Sinden into letting him return despite a concussion.
With 11 minutes to play, Canada was up 4-1 and appeared to be cruising.
But as if flicking a switch, the Soviets came to life -- and Canada stopped skating, ignoring their coach's warning not to try to sit on the lead. Vyacheslav Anisin and Vladimir Shadrin scored eight seconds apart to make it a one-goal contest and get the normally quiet crowd back into the game.
Alexander Gusev tied it at 11:41, beating Tony Esposito with a screened slapper from the point, and Vladimir Vikulov completed the comeback by scoring on a breakaway at 14:46 -- Esposito slammed his stick in frustration after the goal. The Soviets ended up scoring five third-period goals on 11 shots for a stunning 5-4 victory and a 3-1-1 lead in the series.
Despite the loss, the Canadian fans stood and cheered as the players left the ice.
"It was a long, long way from home, and having those people there was comforting," Clarke told NHL.com.
But the cheers of the Canadian fans weren't much comfort right after the game.
Sinden stormed off into the coaches' room and wound up hurling a cup of coffee against the wall, splattering the liquid all over his suit. But the Canadian team got even angrier the next day when they found out the supplies of beef, milk and beer than they had brought from home had been stolen and were being sold to the guests at the same hotel where they were staying.
"We had problems with people waking us up in the middle of the night," Rod Gilbert told NHL.com. "We had problems with our food -- they stole our beer. That was worse than the food."
But the loss also had a galvanizing effect on Canada.
"We lost the first game in Moscow; we had a 3-0 lead. We got together afterward and said we weren't going to lose another game," Gilbert said. "We had to fight the referees and everyone else. They tried to distract us. It really united the team."