As the National Hockey League entered the 1970's, the Boston Bruins, led by Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, were the dominant team in the NHL. The hockey world regarded them as a certain bet to reclaim the Stanley Cup after a record-breaking season in 1970-71.
By the end of the regular season, the Bruins had accumulated 121 points, leaving the rest of the league in their dust. For example, the second-place New York Rangers finished with a superb 109 points but were still 12 points behind the Bruins.
In the quarter-finals, Boston faced the Montreal Canadiens, third-place finishers in the competitive East Division.
It was an intense series. In a 3-1 loss for Montreal in Game 1, the contest was delayed more than ten minutes as spectators tossed garbage on the ice, reacting to a Bobby Orr misconduct that resulted from an altercation with John Ferguson.
The second game was a high-scoring affair that ended in a 7-5 Montreal win.
Game 3 saw Montreal collect a 3-1 win in a contest that included a vicious first period. Jacques Laperriere scored a goal and added an assist in the second period.
The Bruins rebounded in Game 4 with a 5-2 victory. Laperriere assisted on both Montreal markers.
Boston battled back and both outslugged and outscored the Canadiens in Game 5. The tone was set within the first minute as Derek Sanderson sent Montreal's Phil Roberto crashing into the boards. The check resulted in Roberto being carried off the ice on a stretcher and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital for examination. The game ended in a 7-3 Bruins' win. Jacques Laperriere collected a third period assist.
Not to be outdone, Montreal pummeled Boston in Game 6, winning by an 8-3 margin. Laperriere's goal at 19:34 of the third punctuated the victory.
The series, now tied at three games apiece, returned to Boston for the deciding contest. Frank Mahovlich provided the difference with two goals and an assist to lead the Canadiens to a 4-2 win, not only knocking out the seemingly invincible Boston Bruins, but allowing Montreal to move on to face the Minnesota North Stars in the next round.
The playoffs grew marginally easier for Montreal after their first huge hurdle in beating the Bruins. It took six games, but the Canadiens eliminated the Stars. Laperriere collected two goals and an assist in the series versus Minnesota.
The Canadiens then faced the Chicago Black Hawks for the chance to win the Stanley Cup. Game One took double overtime to complete but ended in a 2-1 win for Chicago. Game Two also went Chicago's way, although in a much less tight manner. A 5-3 Hawks' win included a first period Jacques Laperriere assist.
Montreal doubled Chicago 4-2 in Game 3 and dumped the Hawks 5-2 in Game 4, both contests played in Montreal. Laperriere earned an assist in the fourth game of the final.
Back in Chicago for Game 5, the Black Hawks shut out the Canadiens 2-0, but Montreal rebounded with a 4-3 win in Montreal in Game 6.
The seventh and deciding game was played May 18, 1971 in Chicago. Dennis Hull pulled the trigger late in the first period to [put his Hawks up 1-0. Midway through the second, Danny O'Shea scored to put Chicago up 2-0, but Montreal roared back with a Jacques Lemaire goal, assisted by Jacques Laperriere, later in the second and Henri Richard with a tally to close out the period.
Tied at two apiece going into the third, it took a goal by Henri Richard at 2:34 of the third to decide the game ... and win a surprise Stanley Cup triumph for the Montreal Canadiens!
This was Jacques Laperriere's finest post-season, as he accounted for 4 goals and 13 points while dictating the pace of the game whenever he stepped on the ice. It was appropriate that Montreal coach Al MacNeil repeatedly sent Laperriere out to defend the 3-2 lead in the final contest against Chicago. Laperriere was the first player to embrace young goalie phenomenon Ken Dryden when the final buzzer sounded.
After the game, it was revealed that Jacques Laperriere, who had enjoyed a superb playoff, had been playing with a broken bone in his left forearm following a collision on May 6 in a game against Chicago.
The valiant blueliner, defying odds and doctors, regarded the spring of 1971 as the pinnacle of his NHL career.
Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and On-line Features at the Hockey Hall of Fame.