1972 Summit Series. Game 2: Canada beat the Soviets to a tie in the series

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Star on September 5, 1972, following Canada’s 4-1 victory over the Soviets on September 4. and is part of “Summit Series At 50” – celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic eight-game hockey series between the Soviet Union and Canada.

Canada’s legion of marching jumpers face a period of indecision about which direction to take until tomorrow night in Winnipeg.

They deserted the wagon when the Canadian team lost, 7-3, to the Soviet national championships. Today, they are trying to get back on board. Maybe they should bind their ankles so they don’t twist and jump and go down.

The Canadian side stole the script the Soviets used in Montreal to whip the comrades, 4-1, last night in front of 16,485 spectators at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The revised Team Canada roster was the antithesis of the indecisive, slow-reacting scramblers that made an excellent Russian team look superb in Montreal.

In this game, the Canucks had emotional jitters from the huge build-up the game had received. Last night they were much more relaxed and it showed in their performance.

Victory in an exceptional hockey game, which featured long periods of sustained action and fast pace, was won against the same strong and determined opponents.

This time, however, Team Canada players showed why they are the stars of the National Hockey League with a poised, disciplined effort that Montreal lacked.

The tension of the first meeting with the Russians after 20 years of discussions and threats is over. Present was a recognition of the abundant skill of the Soviets and a hard-learned respect for their enemies.

Supported by magnificent goaltender Tony Esposito, especially in the first period, Team Canada played solid positional hockey, which kept the fast Soviet offense from breaking free for scoring chances. The Canadian forecheck broke the Soviets’ quick-clearing machinery in their own zone.

In the Montreal game, Team Canada tried to play aggressive and looked stupid. Their physical game last night featured harsh but legal checks and varied but questionable assault tactics that kept the Russians from flying freely on the ice.

Leading the assault parade was Wayne Cashman, the hostile Boston Bruins winger who tackled every Russian in sight and connected with many of them. Team Canada’s game plan wasn’t all chaos. The idea was to place roadblocks on the tracks of the Soviet express.

“We played a much tighter check game than in Montreal,” said managing coach Harry Sinden. “In the first game we tried it but in a confused style. Here we have organized our approach.

“We had seen the Russians, we knew what they could do and what we had to do to stop them. They did what they wanted in Montreal because they had no one in their way.

“Of course we hit them a bit, but we waited for our turn to come. Our positional game improved tremendously, which meant they didn’t have the ability to move at will. We just played a much smarter hockey game this time. We didn’t waste our energy on unnecessary running.

Using three defense combos was a big plus. Bill White and Pat Stapleton, the Chicago Black Hawks’ free-flowing working pair, provided stability on the backline, while Montreal’s Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard staged a hasty outing for the puck from the Canuck zone. Brad Park and Gary Bergman played solidly.

The installation of diggers Cashman and JP Parise on the flanks of Phil Esposito and the insertion of Stan Mikita between Yvan Cournoyer and Frank Mahovlich ensured the cohesion of the forward line. Big Peter Mahovlich excelled in a leading edge and penalty killing role.

The first period featured hard hits from both sides and three brilliant saves from Esposito. Sinden and his Russian sparring partner Vsevolod Bobrov tried to juggle the lines to provide proper matches. The referees eventually ruled that Sinden, as the home side’s boss, had the final juggling.

In the second half, the Soviets received a bench penalty time and their players engaged in a major repartee in Russian with the referees who may have detected the meaning, even if they did not. Not understood.

An interpreter was on the Russian bench and the match officials called on his services on several occasions to explain the decisions to the coaches.

In the second, Team Canada began to take control of the game, beating the Soviets 16-5. But only Esposito, with a clever stick in the crease, was able to beat Vladislav Tretiak, the splendid young Soviet goalkeeper.

At the start of the third period, Yvan Cournoyer took off from the wing to accept Park’s pass, beat defender Vladimir Lutchenko and send him between Tretiak’s legs.

The Soviets finally beat Esposito when Alexander Yakushev connected on a power play to put the teams in a “score the next goal and grab the momentum” situation.

Peter Mahovlich took it with both hands for the Canadians on a superb individual effort with his team shorthanded.

Esposito’s pass sent him out of the Canadian zone and into a one-on-one with defender Yuri Lyapkin. Pete’s fake slapshot and deke made Yuri blurry and he applied the same treatment to Tretiak for center goal, perhaps, the entire series.

Frank Mahovlich completed it two minutes later, converting a pass produced by Mikita’s industrious forecheck.

The series now heads to Winnipeg and Game 3 tomorrow night.

More ‘Summit Series at 50:

The 1972 Summit Series: Everything you need to know about its 50th anniversary

Summit Series Game 1: Soviets embarrass Canadians at home — and show how the game should be played

dave feschuk | How the 1972 Summit Series changed the way Canada thinks about hockey


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