September 26, 2012

1972 Summit Series: Game 7: Canada Forces Decisive Game 8

Game 6 was Canada's first victory since Game 2. This sparked an outpouring of excitement back home, as some 50,000 rejuvenated fans sent telegrams and best wishes to the team. This helped motivate Team Canada, who were all but alone in the powerful, undemocratic country.

Somehow the victory in Game 6 provided a great sense of confidence in the team. No matter how unlikely it may have seemed to an outsider, the team truly believed that they would win Game 7, and then Game 8.

Russia would have to play the game without their flashiest superstar in Valeri Kharlamov, who was sitting out this game with a badly bruised ankle thanks to the dastardly Bobby Clarke in Game 6. At the urging of Team Canada co-coach John Ferguson, Clarke wielded his stick in axe like fashion to chop down the flashy star. Clarke would later admit he had every intention of breaking the ankle he was aiming for.

Canada got off to a strong start in what might have been the best played game of the series. At just 4:09 of the game Phil Esposito opened the scoring thanks to a Ron Ellis centering pass.

Six minutes later the Soviets tied it up. Alexander Yakushev took advantage of a stumbling Brad Park to break in alone on Tony Esposito, slipping the puck between the goaltender's pads.

Park was victimized again for the 2-1 goal late in the period. While killing a penalty the puck bounced off of Park's skate directly to Vladimir Petrov's stick. Petrov easily converted.

Before the period was over Phil Esposito somehow managed to get the puck through a maze of players in front of the Soviet net and past the screened Vladislav Tretiak.

Goaltending was the story of the second period, particularly by Tony Esposito. Russia outshot Canada 13-7 in the frame, but no one was able to beat either puck stopper.

The tie was finally broken early in the third period when Rod Gilbert emerged from behind the net to stuff a backhand shot behind Tretiak.

The lead would be short lived as Yakushev scored his second of the game to tie the score at 3. Those Soviet teams were so amazing. Whenever the opposition thought they finally got a break against them, the Russians would seemingly always respond quickly and emphatically.

After the tying goal Russia seemed to put their offensive attack into a higher gear, but Tony Esposito was up to the task. He made half a dozen spectacular saves. However the Soviet momentum soon subsided, and the teams played tight, defensive hockey for the rest of the game. Neither team wanted to make a mistake.

At 16:26 of that final period, one of the most disturbing scenes in hockey history occurred. Soviet captain Boris Mikhailov and Canadian defenseman Gary Bergman collided along the side boards and began to push and shove. That's when the overmatched Mikhailov committed hockey's cardinal sin and used his skates as a weapon. He kicked at Bergman's shins repeatedly.

Bergman, who was cut but not seriously injured on the play, responded by ramming Mikhailov's head into the chicken wire that was used in Luzhniki Ice Palace instead of Plexiglas.

Full Story and Box Score

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