Both Canada and the Soviet Union had pushed each other to their limit in this grueling eight-game Summit Series, heading into the decisive eighth and final game in Moscow, the series tied at 3-3-1. Each team knew the ins-and-outs of each other’s game, and were completely prepared to avoid any surprises.
That is, until the final minute of the game – when Paul Henderson pounced on a rare Vladislav Tretyak rebound to score what was touted “The Goal Of The Century,” winning the epic Summit Series, and the International Hockey Lineal Championship, for Canada.
The game started off with animosity even before the initial puck drop, with the Soviets initially deciding to cancel pre-game ceremony, before being convinced to proceed at Team Canada’s insistence. There was also debate from the Soviet team on having a pair of German referees officiate the game, rather than the already scheduled Czech and Swedish referee; a compromise was reached by having one German and one Czech referee officiate. The USSR struck first and early, capitalizing on a 5-on-3 power play goal from Alexander Yakushev just over three minutes into the first. Canada’s penalty troubles continued when J.P. Parisé was tossed from the game for banging his stick on the ice (and later threatening to strike a referee with his stick) to protest an interference penalty, leaving Canada down a man only 4:10 into the game.
Canada struck back with a power play tally of their own from Phil Esposito, but penalties continued to sink Canada, as Vladimir Lutchenko put the Soviets up 2-1 during an Yvan Cournoyer penalty. But with just over three minutes remaining in the first, Brad Park netted his first Series goal on a beautiful passing play set up by Dennis Hull and Jean Ratelle to even things at 2-2 after 20 minutes. The Soviets jumped again to the lead on a goal 21 seconds into the second by Vladimir Shadrin, and while Bill White did manage to tie the game once again, the Soviets pulled away by the end of the second, with tallies from Yakushev and a power play goal by Valeri Vasiliev in a span of five minutes putting The Big Red Machine ahead 5-3 after forty minutes.
The Soviets began the third period dropping back to play a more defensive game in order to sit on their lead, a strategy that catered to Canada’s aggressive shooting style nicely, as Esposito pulled Canada within one on his second goal of the game. When Cournoyer tied the game at five apiece with eight minutes remaining, the tension was so thick that the Soviet goal judge refused to switch on the goal lamp, even though the referees clearly called the play as a goal – extra Soviet soldiers had to be dispatched to keep the peace, with Canadian coaches, players and executives scrumming with Soviet soldiers and police.
Even with the tie, the Soviets were playing a defensive game, a strategy Canadian coach Harry Sinden attributed to the Soviet team trying to win the Series on goal differential, as a tie would put the series at 3-3-2, leaving the Soviets as champions, due to their two-goal advantage in the total series. However, the Canadians were not satisfied with this result, and with less than a minute remaining, Henderson, fresh off the bench, made a beeline to the net, chasing the puck behind the Soviet goal as it rolled to the corner.
Cournoyer tried to pass to Henderson, but was blocked by two Soviet defenders – but upon mishandling the puck, Esposito came up with the loose puck, threw a shot at Tretyak, and with Henderson parked right in front for the rebound, he flicked the puck over a sprawling Tretyak to take their first lead of the game, and throttle Canada into hockey history with one of the greatest, if not the greatest, goal in international hockey history. Canada would hold on for the remaining 34 seconds to win the series they entered as heavy favourites, but over the course of a month were suddenly tagged as major underdogs.
Having neglected to take part in international competition since 1970 over the use of professional players (stemming the creation of the Summit Series), Canada entered the Series as International Hockey Lineal Champions, with the series opener being their first IHLC title match (and game overall) since January 4, 1970. The IHLC changed hands four times throughout the series, with Canada winning it last in Game 6, where their three straight wins to end the series meant they ended the Series as IHLC champions. Canada’s championship reign was their 20th overall, which they would hold without playing again until the 1974 Summit Series, as their international boycott from IIHF-sanctioned games continued following the tournament, until 1977 in fact.
02:25 – PEN – White, holding
03:01 – PEN – P. Mahovlich, holding
03:34 – PP2 GOAL – Yakushev (Lyapkin, Maltsev)
03:44 – PEN – Petrov, hooking
04:10 – PEN – Parisé, interference + game misconduct
06:28 – PEN – Tsygankov, inteference
06:45 – PP GOAL – P. Esposito (Park)
09:27 – PEN – Ellis, interference
09:46 – PEN – Petrov, interference
12:51 – PEN – Cournoyer, interference
13:10 – PP GOAL – Lutchenko (Kharlamov)
16:59 – GOAL – Park (Ratelle, Hull)
20:21 – GOAL – Shadrin
30:32 – GOAL – White (Gilbert, Ratelle)
31:43 – GOAL – Yakushev
34:58 – PEN – Stapleton, cross checking
36:44 – PP GOAL – Vasiliev (Shadrin)
38:06 – PEN – Kuzkin, elbowing
42:27 – GOAL – P. Esposito (P. Mahovlich)
43:31 – PEN – Gilbert, fighting major
43:31 – PEN – Mishakov, fighting major
44:27 – PEN – Vasiliev, tripping
52:56 – GOAL – Cournoyer (P. Esposito, Park)
55:24 – PEN – Hull, high sticking
55:24 – PEN – Petrov, elbowing
59:26 – GOAL – Henderson (P. Esposito)
W: Dryden (22-27)
L: Tretyak (30-36)
SHOTS ON GOAL
14+8+14 = 36
12+10+5 = 27
Goaltenders: Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito. Defence: Gary Bergman, Guy Lapointe, Brad Park, Serge Savard, Pat Stapleton, Bill White. Forwards: Bobby Clarke, Yvan Cournoyer, Ron Ellis, Phil Esposito (A), Rod Gilbert, Paul Henderson, Dennis Hull, Frank Mahovlich (A), Peter Mahovlich, J.P. Parisé, Jean Ratelle (A).
Goaltenders: Alexander Sidelnikov, Vladislav Tretyak. Defence: Alexander Gusev, Viktor Kuzkin, Vladimir Lutchenko, Yuri Lyapkin, Gennadi Tsygankov, Valeri Vasiliev. Forwards: Vyacheslav Anisin, Yuri Blinov, Valeri Kharlamov, Alexander Maltsev, Boris Mikhailov (C), Yevgeni Mishakov, Vladimir Petrov, Vladimir Shadrin, Vladimir Vikulov, Alexander Volchkov, Alexander Yakushev.
Photo Credit: Team Canada 1972: The Official 40th Anniversary Celebration – IIHF – HHOF – IOC