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NHL Centennial

Jean Beliveau's lone overtime goal in playoffs was classic

Canadiens center scored to eliminate Bruins 48 years ago

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- The late, legendary Jean Beliveau remains atop the Montreal Canadiens' playoff lists for points (176) and power-play goals (26). He will not be toppled from those pedestals anytime soon.

Beliveau's 79 career playoff goals rank second in Canadiens history behind Maurice "Rocket" Richard (82), and with 97 assists he trails only defenseman Larry Robinson (109). But you'll find the Hall of Fame center far down on the Canadiens' list of overtime goals scored, behind less-famous names Yvon Lambert, Russ Courtnall, Alex Galchenyuk and others.

Of Beliveau's 79 playoff goals, remarkably just one was scored after regulation time. That one came in double overtime on April 24, 1969, in Game 6 of the NHL Semifinals in Boston and eliminated the Bruins from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A subsequent four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final gave the Canadiens the 16th of the 24 championships won by Montreal, the ninth of 10 that Beliveau would win as a player before he retired in 1971.

The 1969 overtime goal marked the 10th consecutive time the Canadiens had defeated the Bruins in a playoff round dating to 1946. Boston was hardly done with its Montreal misery; the Canadiens extended the streak to 18 series wins before the Bruins eliminated them in the 1988 Adams Division Final, winning 4-1.

Before the game in Boston, Beliveau had played 22 overtime playoff games for the Canadiens without having scored after regulation. It looked like that number would grow to 23 that afternoon at Boston Garden until Claude Provost, the Canadiens' workhorse checking forward, wrestled the puck away from Bruins defenseman Don Awrey.

Video: Jean Beliveau's name is on Stanley Cup 17 times

"I thought we'd lost possession," Beliveau said afterward amid the celebration in the Montreal dressing room. "I turned back, ready to head for our own end, and then I saw Joe (his nickname for Provost) come up with the puck.

"It was a perfect pass from that old guy over there," he said jokingly, nodding in the direction of Provost, who at 35 was two years his junior. "I gave a little yell and the puck was there. I had no time to think or make a fancy shot. I just let it go and it went in."

Beliveau's quick snap, the Canadiens' 47th shot of the game, eluded Bruins goaltender Gerry Cheevers at 11:28 of the second overtime. That goal, and Rogie Vachon's 50 saves, gave the Canadiens a 2-1 victory and eliminated Boston.

A photo of the goal shows Beliveau wheeling away from the net hollering with joy, stick raised. Linemate John Ferguson is equally happy in the background and Awrey is bear-hugging Provost on the ice with a dejected Cheevers looking down, Boston's season over.

"Yes, I remember that goal," Beliveau said when we spoke in April 2011, with the Canadiens heading to Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Boston. "It's easier to remember when you score only one."

True to his diplomatic roots, Beliveau had no crystal ball to consult when asked to predict the outcome of that Canadiens-Bruins series, their 33rd of 34 postseason meetings.

"You know, my coach, Toe Blake, used to say, 'Predictions are for gypsies,' " he said, laughing. "I've never forgotten that."

Boston defeated the Canadiens in a thrilling seven-game series in 2011, needing overtime in Game 7.

This was less than a month before the 40th anniversary of Beliveau's final NHL game. He still holds the NHL record for the fastest winning goal in a playoff game in regulation time: 14 seconds, against the Chicago Black Hawks in a 4-0 victory in Game 7 of the 1965 Stanley Cup Final. He won the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the postseason that year.

"I suppose my playoff record is pretty good," he said in an understatement. "I think I'm still up there a bit. I always enjoyed the playoffs. Not only the players, but management and the fans are very nervous. Especially against Boston."

If the overtime goal was a milestone for Beliveau, it also was one for broadcaster Bob Cole, who for CBC Radio that afternoon was calling play-by-play of an NHL game for the first time in his legendary career. Cole had been doing color commentary for the radio network alongside Bob McDevitt until Game 6.

Many years later, Beliveau and Cole posed for a photo in the Canadiens alumni lounge at Montreal's Bell Centre, an image that Cole cherishes to this day. Beliveau autographed it, in French, his words translated: "To Bob, In memory of a friendship that began in 1969."

On Friday, Cole called his 150th NHL overtime playoff game for Canadian television when the Bruins defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference First Round series.

Fittingly, it ended in double overtime.

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