Long-time NHL goaltender Gilles Gilbert played a role in one of the most memorable goals in league history and not in a way that made him happy.
Gilbert was in the net for the Boston Bruins when Guy Lafleur scored a dramatic Game 7 goal against him to change the Montreal Canadiens’ fortunes in the 1979 playoffs. The tally came with 1:14 left in regulation. Most older hockey fans have seen video of Lafleur, on the rush, whistling a slap shot past Gilbert. The YouTube video of the goal embedded in this story has been seen by 414,000 people.
Lafleur died last year at age 70 and Gilbert, who spent his last three NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, died Sunday at 74.
Gilles Gilbert was burned as a North Stars rookie for Jean Béliveau's 498th, 499th & 500th goals in Le Gros Bill's 1971 hat; then, by Guy Lafleur in 1979's too-many-men tilt. A fine goalie, Gilles and Jean and Flower are sharing stories again – and Gilles is stopping every shot. https://t.co/k3FqQdGtpP
— Dave Stubbs 🇨🇦 (@Dave_Stubbs) August 6, 2023
The Lafleur goal against Gilbert tied the game 4-4. The power play occurred because the Bruins had too many men on the ice. Yvon Lambert scored in overtime to finish off the Bruins and put the Habs in the Stanley Cup Final. They beat the New York Rangers for their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup championship.
“I think I ruined his career,” Lafleur told the Province in 2016. “When I scored that tying goal on him in 1979, and we ended up beating the Bruins in the semifinals, Gilles was a good goalie. Unfortunately for him, after that tying goal, he didn’t go too far.”
A year later, the Bruins traded Gilbert to the Detroit Red Wings for Rogie Vachon.
Gilbert played parts of 14 NHL seasons, including his last three (1980-81, 1981-82 and 1982-83) with the Red Wings. The Red Wings were a struggling franchise at the time. The Quebec native owned a 192-143-60 record in his NHL career. Over a three year period (1973-76), he won 90 games with the Bruins. But he had 21-48-16 mark with the Red Wings. He never was able to push his save percentage above .865 with the Red Wings.
Gilbert was beset by injuries and a skin rash in 1982-83, but gave the Red Wings a shot at the playoffs with some strong play down the stretch.
The Red Wings had sent him to the minors and Gilbert found his game. He went 3-3-1 in one stretch and played well enough to win in two of the losses.
“It opened my eyes and changed my philosophy,” Gilbert told the Windsor Star during his surge. “I’ve put the first part of this year, and the past two or three years behind me and decided I would help as much as I could if I got another chance.”
The Red Wings missed the playoffs and released Gilbert on July 17, 1983. He was 34 and never played another pro game.