Custom Search

Last-second come-from-behind goals: Ellis did it twice, ten years apart

Earlier this season, the Leafs made a couple of nice comebacks—against Buffalo and Montreal, as I recall—but of late, we haven’t seen much in the way of stirring come-from-behind efforts.

When you’re on the winning side of a big comeback, or a late goal to tie or win a game, there’s nothing like it—which brings to mind memories of two Maple Leaf regular-season comebacks from my youth.

Now, these weren’t big comebacks in the sense of coming from behind 4-0 to win the game. They were cases of last-second goals that gave the Leafs an unexpected tie.

Winger Ron Ellis, a thoroughly professional Maple Leaf from the mid- ‘60s to the early ‘80s, was the trigger man on both occasions.

Back in Ellis’ rookie season (1964-’65), I recall listening to the Leafs play the Rangers in New York on a Sunday night. In those days, the early-to-mid-‘60s, the Leafs were usually pretty tough to beat at home during their traditional Saturday night contest on national television. But they often struggled when they played the next night (which was almost always the case in the old 70-game, 6-team NHL) on the road, especially in Detroit, Chicago and New York.

There was no TV broadcast, of course, but you could pick up Sunday night Leaf games on CBC radio. We had a local affiliate where we were, so that was standard radio fare for me on Sunday nights.

But this one night, the Leafs were behind 3-2. I was following the broadcast but had pretty much given up hope. There was (thankfully) no overtime or shootout in those days, and a tie on the road was usually a good point for the Leafs. But things looked bleak against the Rangers.

The Leafs pulled their goalie and suddenly, Ellis scored at 19:59—with one second left in the game. I couldn’t believe it when the announcer (likely Foster Hewitt, but I’m not certain) made the call. That kind of last-second goal seemed to happen very rarely in those days, and it still stands out all these years later.

It was pretty exciting stuff and a good way for an 11 year-old to start the school week on Monday morning.

Fast forward about 10 years. During the 1974-’75 season, the Leafs were not strong but usually gave Montreal a good game at the Gardens. In March, Montreal came to town. The Leafs were on their way to making the playoffs, but just barely. I was living in Toronto, an undergrad at the University of Toronto. I bought standing room tickets with a buddy who was also a Leaf fan to watch the game.

This night, they were trailing Montreal, late. I think, but I’m not sure, that that score was 3-2. There were only a few seconds left when the Leafs pulled their goalie and won a draw in Montreal’s end. The puck came to Ellis, who beat Montreal goaltender Ken Dryden with barely any time left on the clock.

I remember that game, in part because it was the only time I have ever been in the standing room section at Maple Leaf Gardens. I was underneath the “end blues” as Bill Hewitt used to call them, behind the Leaf net—way behind. You couldn’t go to the washroom without losing your spot.

But at least I was in the building.

Ellis scored and the place went wild. I was probably about 400 feet away from the action, (the goal was scored at the other end of the ice) but again, at least I was there. And the Leafs stole a point from the hated Habs, always a good thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment