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Thursday March 4, 2010 9:45 pm

The weirdest finish in hockey history




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, NHL, Playoffs, Scoreboard,

Rogie VachonHave you ever wondered what might be the strangest game in NHL history? One argument might be made for a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks on the final day of the 1969-70 season. The Hawks needed a win to solidify first place. The Canadiens needed at least a tie to make the playoffs. The final playoff spot could come down to most goals scored, and the Canadiens head coach Claude Ruel considered starting the game with six skaters in lieu of a goalie to ensure a playoff spot. Shortly before the game he went with the more traditional idea to play for a win.

When word got to Ruel that New York won 9-5 to tie the Canadiens in the standings, not losing to Chicago became even more crucial. The game started off poorly for the Habs, but they carried a 3-2 deficit into the third period. Pit Martin completed a hat trick early on, and Ruel’s team was down 5-2. A win, or even a tie was quickly falling out of reach. Ruel did some quick math and also realized that the Habs were behind the Rangers in goals scored 246-242. Barring a win, they would need to net at least five goals to make the playoffs.

Chicago rookie goaltender Tony Esposito had a fantastic season, but surely even a great rookie would fall to the pressure of six attackers, right? That’s what Ruel thought. He figured it would be easier to score five goals while giving up whatever empty netters than it would be to score three goals in a five-on-five situation, so he pulled Rogie Vachon from the Montreal net and risked all. In a little less than half a period, the Canadiens skaters managed to do nothing to Esposito and the Hawks.

At the other end of the ice, the Hawks took full advantage of the vacant goal crease, and five different Chicagoans netted the puck as the fans hollered for more. The Blackhawks would skate off to a 10-2 victory while the Canadiens skated off for the final time that season. For the first time ever, there would be no Canadian team in the playoffs. Since then, the NHL has changed the tie-breaker format. Goals scored is now virtually insignificant in the NHL standings, and all it took was five empty net goals.

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