Game 3, Winnipeg, Sept 6, 1972
First, you may be wondering … why Winnipeg? Why not Edmonton, or even (God forbid) Calgary?
As hard as it may be to believe, at the time Winnipeg had the biggest and best arena on the prairies. Like I said in the beginning, this was in a very different Canada.
If it’s possible that there is a forgotten game in the series, this is it. Game 1 was legendary for its shocking final score, game 2 for its great Canadian return to form, game 4 for Canada hitting bottom and Esposito’s famous post-game speech, and all of the games in Russia are unforgettable. But game 3 in Winnipeg isn’t a game that anyone, except those in attendance, remembers particularly well. That’s probably because of the final score. In sports, they say a tie is like kissing your sister; sure, it’s a kiss, but your sister?
Still it was probably the most closely contested game of the series, as the score would indicate.
It began well for Canada. Bill White, a balding defenceman (remember, no helmet), let a shot go that was bobbled by Tretiak. JP Parise tapped it in for a quick Canadian goal at 1:54. Coming off the tremendous Toronto victory, perhaps things had turned around, and the universe was unfolding as it should.
Canada went on a powerplay shortly after, only to have the Russians score shorthanded at 3:13 when Frank Mahovlich (Pete’s older, lazier brother) gave the puck away to Petrov, who blew a long shot past Tony Esposito. Canada’s Jean Ratelle scored at 18:25 to give Canada a 2-1 lead, a goal that by today’s standards would never have been allowed: future hero Paul Henderson flagrantly interfered with a Soviet player, freeing Ratelle to go in on Tretiak. While there were only two penalties, by today’s standards there would have been at least a half-dozen, most of them slashing. In fact, it looked as if slashing was a perfectly acceptable part of hockey.
Esposito gave Canada another of its two-goal leads — the third in three games — at 4:19 of period 2. Just past the mid-way point of the period, the game went nuts. Kharlamov, the most thrilling and speediest of the Soviet players, scored a shorthanded goal (the Russian’s second of the game) at 12:56. Paul Henderson scored an unexpected goal, low to Tretiak’s stick side, at 13:47, and Canada lead again by two. But again, the Soviets came back, two minutes later at 14:49 (a cheap deflection), and again at 18:28. Four goals in seven minutes.
In the third, the remarkable Kharlamov continued to dazzle, setting up a near Russian goal that was stopped from going in at the last second by Brad Park. As the game wore on, the Canadians wore down. Still not in game shape and playing their third game in five nights — and in a sweatbox Winnipeg Arena — the Canadians wilted in the last 10 minutes. The game ended in a tie, which unfortunately relegates it forever to an also-ran in the history books. But it was an excellent game, played at a crisp pace and with numerous scoring chances. Watching it with 40 years hindsight, the Russians were clearly playing the kind of hockey we see today; passing and puck control. Canada still seemed to believe that you could hammer an opponent into submission.
After three games, nothing is close to being settled. But after the fiasco in Montreal and a well-deserved win in Toronto, the game gave Canada some hope (despite a pair of blown two goal leads, and two short-handed goals allowed).
Then, it was on to Vancouver, a place where hope goes to die.