This story was originally written by the Globe and Mail reporter Louis Cauz and was published on Thursday, October 12, 1967.
PITTSBURGH - The 9,307 masochists who greeted expansion hockey here last night did not see an execution, after all.
In fact, the condemned had the hangman running for the exit as Montreal Canadiens barely mustered a 2-0 victory over Pittsburgh Penguins to open the National Hockey League schedule.
For more than two periods the fans waited for the $10,000,000 retractable dome over the Civic Arena to cave in on their first major-league hockey team in 37 years. But it was still firmly in place at the finish as the Penguins stormed around Rogatien Vachon in the Habitant net seeking the tying goal.
The crowd gave the Penguins a standing ovation.
It was justified because the Penguins had three times as many scoring opportunities as a tense Montreal team which could not solve the Penguins' tight checking. With more finesse Penguins could have shocked the old division.
"I think we were too tight out there, too tense," said Montreal captain Jean Beliveau afterward. "The fellows felt the pressure, you know, representing the old league for the first time against a new team."
Beliveau scored what proved to be the winning goal in the second period when he backhanded a drive over goalie Hank Bassen at 53 seconds of the second period. It was the 400th goal of Beliveau's distinguished career.
"Here it comes," moaned the fans.
But it never did come. The sight of Montreal running the Penguins out of the rink never materialized. The Canadiens simply were not skating in their usual style.
Canadiens were visibly upset by their failure to dominate a team that had been assembled in the past five months.
"If Vachon doesn't make those saves on (Billy) Dea and (Ken) Schinkle, we could have easily lost this one," said Habs' coach Toe Blake.
"I'll tell you this," added Blake.
"If one of these teams gets a good effort out of everybody they can beat anybody on a giving night. We were damn lucky to get out of here with two points. I've never seen our team make any many stupid back passes as they did tonight. They gave the puck away all night."
At that, the game could have easily wound up one sided, especially if Henri Richard had scored in the third period. He drilled a shot off the goalpost with his team ahead 2-0. Before the Canadiens could recover, the puck was Andy Bathgate's stick and the former New York Ranger and Toronto Maple Leaf star drove a shot between Ted Harris' legs that beat Vachon.
The goal lifted the Penguins' hopes. They charged into the Montreal zone, but Canadiens grimly protected the 1-goal margin.
It wasn't until there were 21 seconds to play that Penguins coach Red Sullivan was able to get a sixth attacker on the ice. And it almost paid off.
Earl Ingarfield outbattled Beliveau for the puck at the faceoff and Keith McCreary battled it back to Bathgate, who was standing directly in front of Vachon. The crowd roared as Bathgate desperately attempted to caress a rolling puck. He shot quickly but the puck deflected high over the net.
In the Penguins room, the players were pleased with their efforts in staying with the Canadiens for two periods.
"They didn't run us out of the building, did they?" asked general manager Jack Riley. "We could have easily stole this one with a little luck."