Venue: Luzhniki Ice Palace, Moscow, USSR
Team Canada won Game 6 primarily because they stuck to their game plan: tenacious forechecking, increased physical play and winning the little battles. The Soviets, who had to this point seemed as though they could enter the Canadian zone at will now found stiff resistance, and puck carriers were paying a price. To their credit, they did their best to fight back, but that played right into Canada's plan. The rougher it gets, the more it favours the Canadians.
Team Canada made 2 changes in this game: Tony Esposito was back in for Ken Dryden, and Red Berenson, who I thought had a hell of a performance in Game 6, is out for Bill Goldsworthy. The Soviets meanwhile had 5 changes to their lineup, most notably Valeri Kharlamov, his already sore ankle cracked by the slash of Bobby Clarke in the last game. The Soviets also pulled Shatalov, Lebedev and Bodunov, replacing them with Gusev, Kuzkin, Blinov and Mikhailov. More after the jump...
Rufolf Bata and Owe Dahlberg are officiating tonight, much to the relief of the Canadians, after the embarrassing display from the pair of Kampalla and Baader in game 6. Interesting to see that they were using nets that came off their moorings much more easily than the ones used at the time in the NHL, which had at the time 6 or 7 inch pipes, making them pretty much stationary. Running into the net used to be something that could cause a pretty serious injury, until they moved to the system we have now.
Mikhailov trips Dennis Hull 2 minutes in and Canada gets an early power play, not the start the Soviets were looking for as you can imagine. They can't seem to get any sustained pressure though, and the Soviets kill it off, but shortly after Mikhailov returns to the ice, Ron Ellis heads to the corner and fires a pass to Esposito in his office, and he quickly spins off his check and gets off a quick shot that beats Tretiak to open the scoring.
More chances for Canada following the faceoff, but Tretiak stops Clarke in close. A bit of 4 on 4 hockey as Peter Mahovolich is called for roughing and Yevgeny Mishakov for holding. The relative calm in terms of physical play thus far is a marked change from the intensity of Game 6. No serious chances for either team and they return to full strength.
Liakin tries to set up someone in the slot, but it's broken up, the Canadians doing a much better job of eliminating passing lanes than they had in the earlier games. The Soviets also seem to be rushing passes more now, the surgical precision they displayed in Canada not nearly as prominent.
Things seem to be calm, and against the flow of play Yakushev breaks in and rips a slapshot past Tony O to tie the game at 10:17. Brad Park got crossed up as Yakushev blew past him, giving Yakushev a nice open lane to beat Esposito. Shortly after though Team Canada is back on the PP as Mishakov takes another holding penalty. Like the first opportunity on the man advantage, the Canadians can't seem to get anything going, and Esposito gets suckered into taking a penalty by Boris Mikhailov, and afterwards, Esposito is incensed, making the throat slash gesture at Mikhailov, and gesturing that they should fight when he gets out of the box. Just imagine the outrage if this happened today. Calls for suspension, at the very least.
The Soviets get a couple decent shots on the power play, but they can't get anything past Tony Esposito, and brother Phil's penalty is killed off. The physical play is picking up once again, and you can see the stickwork and face washes become more prominent. Bill White takes an interference call and the Soviets go back on the power play with 4:15 to go in the first.
Vladimir Petrov breaks in all alone, sneaking in behind the Canadian defenders and Esposito is way out, Petrov draws him out and is able to fire the puck into the open net for a 2-1 Soviet lead, the Soviet power play once again hurting Team Canada. Parise, Esposito and Cournoyer have a number of chances on a flurry in front, but Tretiak stops them all, and on the next sequence Esposito wins the faceoff, getting it to Parise who feeds Savard at the slot. Savard does a spin-o-rama to get past the Soviet checker, hitting Esposito in the slot who caught Tretiak moving across the crease. A huge response to the power play goal, and it's tied late. Mikhailov fires a shot at Tony Esposito after being VERY offside, and it hits the Canadian goalie near the throat, but after a short break he's able to continue.
The 'Go Canada Go!' chants can be heard again as the period draws to a close, and Soviets are a little lucky to be even with Canada after spending a good chunk of the time in their own zone. A couple big hits for both teams in the last minute, but nothing comes of it as the period ends.
Jean Ratelle sets up Dennis Hull in the opening seconds, and he was hauled down as he broke in on Tretiak with no call, then shortly after Boris Mikhailov pulls a Dustin Brown special, flopping to the ice, and the officials buy it, Rod Gilbert called for hooking 59 seconds in. Pat Stapleton makes a great play on the PK, pinching up to hit Shadrin at his blueline and fire the puck back in the zone. Esposito is awesome on this PK, killing around 20 seconds off by ragging the puck in the neutral zone.
Lutchenko gets a hard shot off from the point after a faceoff in the Canadian zone, but Esposito kicks it out and Team Canada returns to full strength. The teams exchange chances, but it's apparent that the Soviets are starting to carry the play now, as Esposito's been called upon to make a couple big saves already. Goldsworthy taking a turn with Clarke and Henderson after Ellis killed off a good portion of that penalty to Gilbert. A bit of sustained pressure from Canada, but the Soviets are doing a nice job of clogging up the lanes, all of the shots either getting blocked or sailing wide of Tretiak.
JP Parise gets a 'slashing' call after Anisin goes down rather easily, but just 7 seconds later he hooks Stapleton and it's 4 on 4 again. Yuri Liapkin gets a chance in the slot, but Esposito plays it well, covering up afterwards. It's 4 on 4, but it feels as though Canada's the one short-handed here, the Soviet pressure increasing. Henderson crosses into the slot and rips a low shot, forcing Tretiak to make a big save, and it seems like it's been a while since they really tested him.
Esposito passes to Cournoyer, who hits a streaking Parise, and in all alone Parise bobbles the puck, then inexplicably tries to pass back to Cournoyer, the Soviet defenders easily breaking up the play. Maddening. Vasiliev does a nice job of separating Dennis Hull from the puck as he tries to break in, textbook defensive play as he takes the man out, focusing on Hull rather than trying to defend a potential pass. Tretiak comes way out to swallow up a Bill Goldsworthy shot, one of his better saves of the game. Bergman has a beautiful opportunity in the slot, but fires it about 4 feet wide of the net.
Esposito and Kuzkin return to the ice, and it doesn't take long for him to get a chance on Tretiak, but it goes high and wide. Parise and Kuzkin exchange some gloved punches, so we're back to 4 on 4. They haven't even finished announcing them, and another Soviet dive draws a penalty, Stapleton goes to the box for hooking. It's funny how the announcing crew didn't have problem with the call, but by today's standards, it was a pretty obvious dive. 4 on 3 now, and the Soviets are moving the puck well, but not able to get shots away as the 3 Canadian defenders are doing a great job of pressuring them, especially Esposito. Parise and Kuzkin return to the ice and shortly after Stapleton joins them, Team Canada dodging another shorthanded bullet. Blinov battles through and gets a shot away from the slot, but Tony Esposito gloves it down.
The hitting is getting more and more intense, and there are comments now about the officials being fearful of losing control of the game. Vikulov breaks in alone, but Esposito comes out to challenge him, and with no room to shoot, he fires one high over the net. Another thing I love about rewatching these games, is how I get that tense feeling in my gut even though I know how it turns out. Maybe I'm just a dork...
The Russians seem to have no answer for Henderson, as he continues to get chances. Gilbert moves in and passes to Ratelle instead of shooting, but then gets the puck back after intercepting a Soviet attempt to ring the puck around the boards, and he moves out and shovels a backhand past Tretiak for an early 3-2 lead. I am probably gonna be flamed for this, but I sometimes wonder about the legend of Tretiak. Sure he has numerous World Championships to his credit, and Olympic medals, but the great majority of his wins come against European competition. In a faceoff against the best, when they had what was basically a 3-1 series lead, he was not the best goalie for three straight games. So many goals were scored with Tretiak out of position, or deep in his net, or not ready.
Another Canadian penalty, another Soviet PP goal. Yakushev, with his second of the night as they got the Canadians scrambling. There's a real serious need to stay out of the box now, as the Soviets have really broken down the Canadian PK. The pace is starting to pick up now, with both teams wanting the go-ahead goal.
Gilbert and Blinov get into it behind the net after Blinov pokes at Tony Esposito, who was down covering the puck, but for some reason the officials decide only Gilbert will get penalized, calling him for charging as he hit Mikhailov after the whistle. Blinov gets away with a free shot, and the Canadian players are irate. The scary Soviet power play is gonna get another chance. Petrov gets set up to tee home a shot, but Canadian pressure not only keeps him from shooting, but forces him out over the blueline for an offside call.
Tony O comes up with another big save off Yakushev, and they kill off the penalty, but the Soviets are still pressing. They clear the puck, and they just keep coming. The 10 minute siren comes as the Soviets appear to have Team Canada on the ropes, the timing couldn't have been more perfect. A chance to regroup and prepare to push back in the final 10 minutes.
Peter Mahovolich takes a turn on the line with Henderson and Ellis, giving a tired Bobby Clarke a rest. Vikulov gets a shot away, with Shadrin parked near the crease, but Esposito does well to snag it and hold on. Hull breaks in and gets a hard low shot on Tretiak, but the Soviet keeper handles it easily. The Soviets get a 3 on 2, but Anisin gets tangled up and nothing comes of it. Vikulov tries to break in, but the Canadian defenceman ties him up well. A bit of a surprise there wasn't an offside call there, as he backed into the Canadian zone, pulling the puck across the line. They're not as bad as the previous game's officials, but they're still not very good. The game is degenerating into back and forth rushes, both teams throwing everything they have at each other to try and notch the winner.
A seemingly innocent Soviet chance suddenly explodes behind the net as super pest Boris Mikhailov rides Gary Bergman into the boards in a loose headlock. Bergman lashes back at Mikhailov, and when Mikhailov tries to engage the much smaller Yvon Cournoyer, all hell breaks loose. Cournoyer throws haymakers at Mikhailov, Esposito gets involved, and in that ruckus, Mikhailov commits an unthinkinkable on ice offense: He kicks at Bergman twice, actually punching a hole in the shinpad. Bergman spins away from the pile, but sees an opening and gets a punch in on Mikhailov before they're able to get things calmed down. Mikhailov and Bergman both get 5 minute majors for roughing, the kick going unnoticed by the officials. The shrill whistles of the Soviet fans rain down as Bergman has words with Mikhailov in the penalty box. Mikhailov looks as though he has no idea what's gotten Bergman so angry, it's almost comical.
Shadrin crosses the blueline 4 on 4 and fires a shot at Tony O that he has some trouble with, but he manages to keep it out. 2:50 left in the game, and Vikulov breaks in, but overskates the puck. Maltsev gets free in the slot, but once again Tony O is there to make the stop. After the faceoff, Serge Savard hits a streaking Paul Henderson, who gets away from all 4 Soviet defenders and breaks in on Tretiak, putting one past him just under the cross bar. It's a beautiful goal, so much more than the eventual series winner.
There's still time left though, and the Soviets are frantically looking for the equalizier. Yakushev moves in, but Esposito comes out and makes a fine save, and then Stapleton slides a nice pass over to Gilbert who one-times a shot that hits Tretiak in the head. He shakes it off, and the Canadians keep the Soviets hemmed in their own zone, drawing a faceoff with 58 seconds to go. The Soviets win the draw, and move down the ice, Maltsev getting a chance from the side, which is easily handled by Tony O. They press, but run out of time, and for the 2nd game in a row, Paul Henderson has scored the game winner. It sets the stage for a winner take all against the two world hockey super powers. Sept 28, 1972 in Moscow.