After blowing a 3 goal lead in the 3rd period, Team Canada is facing a must win situation the rest of the way. Cue the hero (and anti-hero) as they battle the Red Menace and the worst. referees. ever.
Venue: Luzhniki Ice Palace, Moscow, USSR
Do or die. After the last game, and the heart breaking loss after things fell apart in the 3rd period, Team Canada could not lose another game if they hoped to win the series. Winning 3 in a row is tough enough. Winning 3 in a row on the road? Even tougher. Winning 3 straight against this fearsome opponent? The odds weren't in their favour, that's for sure. A couple lineup changes for Team Canada, as they inserted Red Berenson and Dennis Hull in for Rod Seiling and Serge Savard and Ken Dryden in place of Phil Esposito in goal, while the Russians dropped Gusev and Kuzkin, along with Blinov, Martinyuk and Mishakov for Vasiliev, Shatalov, Lebedev, Bodunov and Volchkov. Also of note, tonight's officials: Josef Kampala and Franz Baeder.
One thing that's immediately apparent watching this one, is the level of physicality Team Canada brings to the game. The number of times you hear the shrill whistles of the Soviet fans as they voice their disapproval of the play is almost comical as the game goes on. The post whistle scrums last longer, and are far more intense than any previous game. No whistle for a 5 minute stretch early on, and some very intense hockey out of the game, predominantly in the Soviet end. Both teams are coming out full steam, and early on both goaltenders look sharp, being called on to make some big saves.
Bergman gets called for tripping, and the reaction of the Canadian players on the ice lets you know they're already wise to the officials and their incompetence. It only gets worse when they call Canada for icing on the penalty kill. Yes, you read that right. The frustration level of the Canadians is evident, as their conversations with Kampala and Baeder grow increasingly heated.
Team Canada manages to kill off the penalty, but Kampala strikes again, this time calling a double minor for charging on Phil Esposito, causing Esposito to make a choking gesture from the penalty box at the officials. Decent penalty kill from Canada, as they do a great job keeping the Soviets on the perimeter, and giving Dryden good views of the shots.
Another thing is apparent in this period: The advantage that the Soviets seemed to have in their conditioning early in the Series now seems to have been evened, as the Canadians are now in game shape and not just keeping up with the speedy Soviets, but with players like Cournoyer, taking the play to them. Vikulov has an incredible chance late in the period on a play started by Kharlamov, but Dryden makes a spectacular sprawling save across the goal-line, taking away the easy tap-in.
The Soviets score early as Liapkin fires a low, hard slapshot from the blueline that beats Dryden, with assists to Yakushev and Shadrin. Tensions start to rise as Ragulin is called for interference. Sticks are starting rise, words yelled rather than spoken and the pushing and shoving is becoming more common. A bit a light moment as Ragulin sits down in the Canadian penalty box originally. The Soviets are coming out hard on the PK, dictating the play, but later the play moves up the ice and Esposito drills one from the slot, forcing Tretiak to make a big stop. Esposito keeps the pressure up after the penalty is killed off, and he and Rod Gilbert set up Dennis Hull who fires it past Tretiak to tie the game. Shortly after that, Cournoyer takes a pass in the slot from Red Berenson, and just like that, it's a 2-1 Canada lead. They hadn't even announced the 2nd goal, when Henderson crosses the blueline and catches Tretiak completely unprepared, ripping a low shot past him for a 3-1 lead. 3 goals in 1:23, very reminiscent of the Soviet outburst in the 3rd period of Game 5.
Vasiliev and Serge Savard exchange punches in the corner, and both end up in the box. One thing that really stands out about these games in Moscow is the netting at the end of the ice, rather than plexiglass. It was a direct cause of the second goal for Canada, as Berenson played the carom beautifully, before firing it to Cournoyer in the slot. Peter Mahovolich tosses a stick onto the ice as the officials blow the play dead on what would have been a potential Canadian breakaway. Then comes the hack heard round the world, as Bobby Clarke, on direction from Team Canada assistant coach John Ferguson, went after the Soviets best player Valeri Kharlamov and 2 handed him in the ankle. Kharlamov, to his credit didn't lose his footing, but with his ankle cracked, would miss the next game. He returned for game 8, but was largely ineffective. Clarke recieved a 2 minute slashing penalty and a 10 minute misconduct. The Canadian frustration with the officials is growing, and they're in the faces of Kampala and Baeder after every whistle.
Berenson breaks in alone, but doesn't get a good shot away, Tretiak turning it away easily. Sinden and the rest of the Canadian bench lose it as they get called for icing. How bad was this call? See for yourself...
Don't blame them for being angry on this one, as an odd-man rush for Canada was blown down. It's such a cliche, but it was certainly beginning to look at this point as though the West German refs were in the Soviets' pocket. Late in the period Dennis Hull gets called for slashing, and it takes just 9 seconds for the vaunted Soviet PP to strike, Yakuskev from Shadrin and Liapkin, and it's a 1 goal game once again. Not long after though, another bad offside call gets Esposito irate with Kampala and Baeder, and when Esposito highsticked Ragulin, he was given a 5 minute penalty for highsticking, and they tacked on a bench minor, primarily because of Ferguson's screaming and yelling. A five minute PP after that last display of their might on the man advantage, the first two minutes of it played 5 on 3. A kill for Canada could go a long way to helping ensure victory. You can't ever count this Soviet team out though, as we saw in Game 5. Close call as the Soviets hit the side of the net, Kharlamov had Dryden down and out, but wasn't able to put it home.
After giving up a 3 goal lead in the last game, you had to think Canada are wary of giving the Soviets any type of opening, and need to come up with a solid defensive period, and above all else, stay disciplined and do their best to stay out of the box. But let's face it, these refs are calling things that defy logic.
They start the period still killing off Esposito's 5 minute high sticking call, but are doing a damn fine job of keeping the Soviets from setting up on the power play, frequently forcing them to go back into their own zone to get the puck and regroup. A big cheer from the 3,000 Canadian fans signals Esposito's return to the ice, and while they dodged that bullet, they're not home free yet. A 3 on 1 break for the Soviets looks like trouble, but the shot goes wide.
Another cheer as Clarke returns to the ice, having served his misconduct penalty. 40 years later and I still struggle with it. There's no doubt it was a huge turning point in the series. Kharlamov was hands down the best player for the Soviets. And this was so much more than just a hockey game. This was not even 2 nations at war on the ice, but 2 political ideologies duking it out for supremacy. And yet taking all that into consideration, I still have such a difficult time with it, because it was just so blatantly dirty. A couple good chances for Canada, first Ellis streaking in, then later Esposito, but both miss the net.
Canada's defensive play is really starting to take center stage here, as they continue to take away time and space from the Soviet forwards when they try to head into the Canadian zone. The Canadians have kept the Soviets pinned in their zone for well over a minute, aggressively looking for some insurance. Cournoyer uses his speed to get away from the Soviet defenders and tries to beat Tretiak on a wrap-around, but the Soviet netminder gets across the crease in time to keep the puck out.
The Canadian crowd chants 'NYET, NYET SOVIET! DA, DA CANADA!'. I can remember this vividly watching the games as a young lad in Saskatoon, and for the longest time, when playing street hockey, I could hear this chant in my head as I played, imagining I was leading Team Canada to glory against the hated Soviets.
The teams switch ends after the 10 minute mark (I have always loved this about international hockey, and wouldn't complain if they did this in the NHL, though I suppose it would never happen, what with home ice advantage and the long change for the visitors being something the home teams use to their benefit). Canada continuing to press, and they're looking far more confident and composed, but so much more physical than any previous game in this series.
7 minutes left, and you can just feel the Soviets almost getting desperate, but once again, Canada's team defensive play is snuffing out Soviet rushes time after time. So much is said about the play of Esposito and Henderson, but another key player for the Canadians is Serge Savard. He suffered a foot injury in the games back in Canada and didn't play in the games against Sweden. His rock-steady defensive play, especially in Game 6 has been one of the reasons for Canada's success.
They're getting close to victory when potential disaster strikes: A Ron Ellis holding call with less than 3 minutes remaining. A Soviet PP seems like the worst possible thing this late in the game, but led by Savard and his Montreal D partner Guy Lapointe, the Canadian penalty killers, along with Ken Dryden are holding them off. They kill off the penalty and for now, the Canadians still have hope. A win in Game 7 means they can still win the series. A loss, and it's all over. A great game for Dryden in this one as he stopped 27 of 29 shots.