Even though the never-say-die Bruins fought back to take the fourth game 2-0, the outcome of the 1957 Stanley Cup final might well have been decided at the 19:54 mark of the first period when Les Canadiens and the Bruins met in the third game of the series, at the Boston Garden. The Bruins had dropped the first two games of the best-four-out-of-seven final (which were played in Montreal) and it was really imperative for them to win both the third and fourth games, scheduled for their home ice, since Les Canadiens have been practically unbeatable at the Montreal Forum.
The Bruins, in truth, were never in this critical third game. The first of the three 20-minute periods had hardly begun when Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, who had previously racked up eight goals in seven playoff games, slipped into the Bruins zone, cut across in front of the defense and, as he did so, whipped a rising 30-footer past young Don Simmons, the Bruins' rookie goalie. The shape of things to come became clearer around the six-minute mark. The Bruins, enjoying a two-man advantage for a full minute when two Canadiens were serving overlapping penalties, were able to get off only one shot on the Montreal goal, and Jacques Plante, the Canadiens' travel-minded goalie, smothered it without two much difficulty. A pall of disappointment began to settle heavily over the Garden. At 14:39 the resounding quietness became even deeper when old Busher Curry scored the Canadiens' second goal. And then, at 19:54, Geoffrion doused the Bruins' last glimmer of hope when he sifted in close to the Boston cage and lifted a sharp backhand shot through the foot-wide opening between Simmons and the left goalpost. The final score, Canadiens 4, Boston 2, gave no true indication of the Canadiens' margin of superiority over a team which, the harder it pressed to get back in the game, the less effectively it played—a not uncommon occurrence in sports.
Throughout the depressive second and third periods, the Boston rooters, never renowned for their long memories or their stoicism, patiently waited for the Bruins to get going and, when they didn't, leveled not so much as a tea-spoonful of abuse at them. The Bruins, they appreciated, had done inordinately well to go as far as they had. Ninety percent vinegar and 10% sheer talent, this team that had not even qualified for the playoffs last year, had stayed in the pennant race all season long, then managed somehow to outcheck, outhustle, outscore and eventually oust the league champion Detroit Red Wings in the semifinal playoff round.
Last week, that Detroit series looked to have been the season's high-water mark for the spent Bruin squad. They were far off form in the first game against Les Canadiens when 35-year-old Maurice Richard, Monsieur Hockey Lui-m√™me, scored one, two, three, four times to come within one goal of his record of five in a single playoff game which he set away back in 1944 when he was first earning his now indivisible sobriquet, "The Rocket." The Bruins played well enough to win the second game, but Plante had a great night in the nets for the Canadiens and Jean Beliveau came through with the goal that won it 1-0. Then, in the third game, it was another one of the Canadiens' big guns, Geoffrion.
Old hockey hands have long proclaimed that the blistering pace of the Stanley Cup competition nearly always brings out the extra attributes which make the great players great. The cup games this year have certainly confirmed this embryonic proverb. Against the Rangers and the Bruins, Les Canadiens, producing a mixture of fine and only fair hockey, might have got deep into trouble had not their three famed forwards risen to the occasion. Of the 32 goals Montreal scored in the first nine playoff games, Beliveau had six, Richard eight and Geoffrion 10-24 of the 32, monsieur.