The 1970-71 season tells a story rich with the headlines from heros like Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull and Ken Dryden. But, it was the teamwork of one scrappy club that captured the attention of the hockey world.
The expansion teams were entering their fourth playoff season and the 1970-71 Minnesota North Stars along with the rest of the West Division were written off as serious Cup contenders. Could anyone doubt the critics? In the previous three seasons the St. Louis Blues represented the West division in the finals and they only managed to win one game in twelve tries.
Because of this disparity, the Chicago Blackhawks were moved to the West division and playoff format changed so the West's preliminary winners would face their East counterparts in the Semi-Finals.
Minnesota's season was a bit of a roller coaster ride for first year coach Jack Gordon. Rookie Jude Drouin was a big suprise as he led his team in scoring with 68 points. Minnesota qualified for the playoffs with a 28-34-16 record, good for fourth place in the West.
The North Stars faced first place St. Louis in the opening round. The Blues were favored, but the North Stars didn't give an inch and prevailed over their rivals in six games. The series concluded with a thrilling 5-2 victory in Bloomington. Trailing by 1-0 at the start of the second period the North Stars rallied for four goals in less than ten minutes. "It sent the crowd into a frenzy", said one witness. Lou Nanne and Doug Moans scored key goals and Gump Worsley was solid in goal.
While much of the scoring was provided by Danny Grant, Jude Drouin and Bill Goldsworthy the "scrap" came from players like Ted Harris, Charlie Burns and J.P. Parise. A vetern goaltending duo of Gump Worsley and Cesare Maniago was as tough as any tandem in the league.
The North Stars next faced the Montreal Canadiens in Round Two. Montreal pulled off an upset of their own by defeating the defending Stanley Champion Boston Bruins in seven games. But, they wouldn't be underdogs in this series as they were heavily favored to beat the North Stars.
The Canadiens won the first game at the Forum 7-2, but with Cesare Maniago in net for Game Two the North Stars won 6-3 before a stunned Forum crowd. Back at Met Center the Habs got their revenge by winning Game Three 6-3. Once again the North Stars rallied for the next game. It was on Sunday night, and the fans seemed to be hanging from the rafters as they witnessed their North Stars do battle against the "flying frenchmen" from Montreal. Maniago was simply magnificient in this one. A trio of unanswered third period goals by Parise, Hampson and Oliver was the difference. The 5-2 Stars win tied the series at two games apiece.
Montreal drilled the Stars 6-1 in Game Five at the Forum so it was back once more to Met Center for Game Six. As in the games that preceded it, the two teams waged a hard fought and emotional contest. Rejean Houle's goal in at 13:29 of the third period left the Canadiens the task of protecting a 3-2 lead. With Maniago pulled for the extra attacker and the final seconds ticking away, Ted Hampson sneaked in past the defense, shot the puck past Dryden and scored what appeared to be the tying goal. But, the cheers of the crowd fell silent as it became apparent that the goal would not count. The red light had never come on. The green light had automatically activated thus preventing the goal judge from turning on the red one. Was he sleeping at the switch? Many players and fans swear to this day that puck crossed the line before the period buzzer sounded.
A questionable split second cost the North Stars a seventh game in
Montreal and a chance to play in the finals. The Canadiens
went on to win the Stanley Cup in a seven game series with Chicago.
East Preliminaries East Preliminaries II
Montreal 4 Boston 3 Toronto 4 New York 5
Montreal 2 Boston 3 Toronto 4 New York 1
Boston 1 Montreal 3 New York 1 Toronto 3
Boston 5 Montreal 2 New York 4 Toronto 2
Montreal 3 Boston 7 Toronto 1 New York 3
Boston 3 Montreal 8 New York 2 Toronto 1 *
Montreal 4 Boston 2
Montreal wins 4-3 New York wins 4-2
West Preliminaries I West Preliminaries II
North Stars 3 St. Louis 2 Philadelphia 2 Chicago 5
North Stars 2 St. Louis 4 Philadelphia 2 Chicago 6
St. Louis 3 North Stars 0 Chicago 3 Philadelphia 2
St. Louis 1 North Stars 2 Chicago 6 Philadelphia 2
North Stars 4 St. Louis 3
St. Louis 2 North Stars 5
North Stars win 4-2 Chicago wins 4-0
Semi-Finals I Semi-Finals II
North Stars 2 Montreal 7 New York 2 Chicago 1 *
North Stars 6 Montreal 2 New York 0 Chicago 3
Montreal 6 North Stars 3 Chicago 1 New York 4
Montreal 2 North Stars 5 Chicago 7 New York 1
North Stars 1 Montreal 6 New York 2 Chicago 3 *
Montreal 3 North Stars 2 Chicago 2 New York 3 *
New York 2 Chicago 4
Montreal wins 4-2 Chicago wins 4-3
Montreal 1 Chicago 2 **
Montreal 3 Chicago 5
Chicago 2 Montreal 4
Chicago 2 Montreal 5
Montreal 0 Chicago 2
Chicago 3 Montreal 4
Montreal 3 Chicago 2
Canadiens win Stanley Cup 4-3
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