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Gritty, gifted Lach centred Canadiens famous Punch Line, won three Stanley Cups

NHL.com @NHL

MONTREAL - Former Montreal Canadiens great Elmer Lach ? who fed passes to Maurice (Rocket) Richard on the famous Punch Line ? has died at age 97.

He had been the oldest living NHL player.

The native of Nokomis, Sask., could skate and score well enough to be called Elegant Elmer and had a battling nature that made him an invaluable player for the 1940s Canadiens.

The Punch Line with Toe Blake on left wing and Richard on the right terrorized opposing goalies for four years until Blake's retirement in 1948.

Lach retired as the league's all-time leader in points with 623, a far cry from the current record of 2,857 by Wayne Gretzky but was accomplished in an era of 50-game seasons in a super-competitive six-team league.

He won Stanley Cups 1944, 1946 and 1953 as well as the Hart Trophy in 1944-45. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1966.

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