The year in 1931. The Montreal Canadiens are defending Stanley Cup champions and are flying higher than ever. They are heavy favorites to repeat as title holders, facing the Chicago Black Hawks, who entered their first Stanley Cup finals.
The Canadiens were loaded, with the likes of Howie Morenz (who was suffering from a shoulder injury that spring), Aurel Joliat and Sylvio Mantha, but it is Johnny "Black Cat" Gagnon who would be the scoring hero this spring. In ten games he had 6 goals, 4 of which were important first goals, and 4 of which were power play goals. Gagnon stepped it up in the finals, scoring four goals in the last three games against Chicago including the Stanley Cup game winner in game five.
Chicago was a big underdog in the series. But coach Dick Irvin rolled out "a series of speedy lines that dizzied opponents with the slickness of their skating and stickhandling." Their best player was probably Johnny Gottselig, who was actually born in Russia.
Goalie George Hainsworth was back in net for Montreal, but he would play the final series in the shadow of the goalie at the other end of the rink.
Chicago goalie Charlie Gardiner surprised many when he was able to force the Canadiens to go the distance and play in the decisive game five. But in essence Gardiner faced the Canadiens high scorers for more than 5 games, as his two finals victories came in long overtimes.
The first came in game 2 in Chicago, in front of a NHL record 18,000 fans. The Hawks, who also featured Johnny Gottselig, Mush March, and Taffy Abel, tied the series at 1-1 with a 3-2 double overtime victory.
The next game saw the Hawks take a stranglehold on the series, taking a 2-1 lead thanks to a triple overtime victory in Montreal! Cy Wentworth scored the goal.
Led by Gagnon's goal scoring heroics, the Canadiens came back and took the series in 5 games.
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