The most dominant NHL team of the 1970’s was closing out the decade in style.
Having defeated their rival Boston Bruins in a seven game series, climaxing with the “Too many men on the ice game”, the Habs were on the path for a fourth straight Stanley Cup.
The New York Rangers were looking to spoil Montreal’s party, and had momentum coming into the series by upsetting the, regular season champion, New York Islanders in a six-game semi-final.
That momentum did carry into game one with a 4-1 Rangers victory, stunning both the Canadiens as well has the Montreal home crowd.
The general consensus, amongst many Canadiens fans and critics, that spring was that the team was not the same as it once was just a year ago, and game one seemed to prove them right.
The Canadiens proved them wrong the rest of the series with a dominant 6-2 victory in game two.
Home ice advantage was just the opposite for the Rangers as they lost game three 4-1 and were beaten in overtime of game four, 4-3, by the defending champions.
The stage was set back in Montreal and coach Scotty Bowman had no intention of letting the series return to New York.
Canadiens’ defenseman Rick Chartraw opened the scoring in the first period of game five and the Rangers replied with a goal by Carol Vadnais late in a period.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Canadiens’ goalie Ken Dryden decided that one goal was all his opponent would score against him that night.
Jacques LeMaire would pot two goals in the second period, and Bob Gainey would add one more to put Montreal up 4-1.
With no scoring by either team in the third period, the Canadiens would clinch their fourth straight Stanley Cup Championship.
It would also be Montreal’s sixth Cup in the ‘70s and the 22nd in the franchise’s long history.
Serge Savard, filling in for the team’s injured captain Yvon Cournoyer, would lead his team as they carried the Cup around the Montreal Forum ice.
Gainey, who was better known for his defensive abilities as a forward, scored 16 points in the playoffs to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
It was the first time since 1968 that Montreal had clinched the Cup on home ice, a fitting end to one of hockey’s great dynasties.
This was also the last time two Original Six teams have met in a Stanley Cup Final.
In the aftermath of the Cup victory, three key player elements (Cournoyer, LeMaire and Dryden) all retired and ended their Hall of Fame careers as winners.
Coach Bowman would jump ship, to the Buffalo Sabres, after being looked over by the Canadiens for their GM position in 1978.
His legendary coaching career carried on for 13 more years, bringing him Cup success with Pittsburgh (1992) and Detroit (1997, 1998, 2002).
In light of their coaching and roster losses, Montreal would win their division in the 1979-80 season only to be upset in a seven game quater-final series by Minnesota.
Their next Stanley Cup would not come until 1986, when a 20 year-old rookie named Patrick Roy led them to victory.