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Habs defied odds beating record-setting 1971 B's

by John Kreiser
The task that confronted the Montreal Canadiens in their opening-round playoff series against Boston in 1971 was simple: All they had to do to advance was beat the defending Stanley Cup champs, who had just shattered the NHL record for goals scored and goals for-goals against margin -- and had record-setters in Phil Esposito (76 goals, 152 points) and Bobby Orr (102 assists). Oh, and Montreal's starting goaltender was a rookie who had played all of six NHL games (though he did win all six).

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The kid goaltender, Ken Dryden didn't get off to an auspicious start. The Bruins beat the Canadiens 3-1 in the opener, then took a 5-1 lead midway in the second period of Game 2 -- only to see the Canadiens score six unanswered goals, five in the third period, for a 7-5 victory. Henri Richard started the comeback with an unassisted goal at 15:33 of the second period, and Jean Beliveau scored twice in the third.

Montreal won Game 3 at the Forum, 3-1, but the Bruins evened the series with a 5-2 win in Montreal and took a 3-2 lead with a 7-3 rout at Boston Garden. However, the Canadiens and their rookie goalie weren’t done -- Richard scored twice in Montreal’s 8-3 victory in Game 6, sending the series back to Boston for the deciding game.

Ken Hodge put the Bruins ahead at 6:50, but Frank Mahovlich and Rejean Houle scored before the end of the period to put Montreal in front to stay. J.C. Tremblay made it 3-1 late in the second period and Mahovlich scored again 14 seconds into the third period.

Meanwhile, the Bruins couldn’t do anything with Dryden, who stopped 13 shots in the first period and all 16 he faced in the second. Johnny Bucyk finally cut the margin to 4-2 just 62 seconds into the third, but Dryden stymied the Bruins the rest of the way. At one point, Esposito was so frustrated after being robbed by the 6-foot-4 rookie that he swung his stick into the glass. Espo had 11 shots on goal and couldn’t beat the former Cornell star once.

"Words cannot even begin to describe the way Dryden played," Hodge told reporters after Dryden finished with 46 saves as the Canadiens beat the Bruins in a playoff series for the 11th straight time. They went on to beat Minnesota and Chicago for the Stanley Cup, triggering a run of six titles in nine years. The Bruins rebounded to win the Cup in 1972 -- but didn’t win again until last spring's seven-game triumph against the Vancouver Canucks.
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