Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
Hockey fans from 26 of the NHL’s 30 teams are probably thrilled at the way their weekend television schedule is shaping up. The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning are preparing for a Game 7 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden while the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks are getting ready to face off in Anaheim at the Honda Center on Saturday night.
The last time the Stanley Cup Finals matchup was decided by a pair of Game 7’s was in the year 2000 when the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in the Eastern Conference final and the Dallas Stars bested the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in the Western Conference final. Both series’ are tied 3-3 and one more victory is all that stands between these four teams and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
For the fans of these teams the weekend can only end in one of two ways and that’s either elation, or agony. Either way, they’re certainly in good company. These games will be the 160th and 161st Game 7’s in Stanley Cup Finals history, meaning there have been 161 winners and losers that have preceded them. Let’s take a look back at the seven most memorable Game 7’s in NHL Playoff history.
1. 1979 Eastern Conference Final – Canadiens Beat Bruins 5-4 In OT
The Bruins and the Canadiens rivalry is arguably the finest in all of hockey. These teams have played each other more times than any other teams in hockey and have met in nine Game 7’s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, also more than any other two teams. So the best Game 7 ever obviously has to go to the notorious “too many men” game. The Boston Bruins were leading the Canadiens 4-3 late in the third when they were called for a “too many men on the ice” penalty. On the ensuing power play the Canadiens tied the game at 4-4 and sent it into overtime. After that, Yvon Lambert scored in the first overtime period to send the Canadiens on their way to their fourth straight Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
2. 1954 Stanley Cup Final – Red Wings Beat Canadiens 2-1 In OT
A Game 7 overtime situation in any round is as intense as it gets. So to try and imagine a Game 7 overtime in the Stanley Cup Finals is slightly mind-boggling. Especially one between two teams as like the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens. To say the Red Wings and Canadiens owned the 1950s would be an understatement. These two teams won 10 out of 11 Stanley Cups between 1950 and 1960 and had alternated winning it in the years leading up to 1954’s showdown.
Detroit held a 3-1 series lead but Montreal would rally back to win the next two games – including a 1-0 overtime thriller in Detroit in Game 5 – to send the series back to Detroit for a deciding seventh game. But Montreal’s bid to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions would end there as Tony Leswick ended the game at 5:40 with an innocuous shot from center ice that took a funny bounce and fooled goalie Gerry McNeil. Since then, no Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 has gone past regulation.
3. 1994 Eastern Conference Final – Rangers Beat Devils 2-1 In Double-OT
First came Mark Messier’s Game 6 guarantee, then came Howie Rose’s memorable call of “Matteau, Matteau!” after the Rangers’ double-overtime victory over the cross-river rival New Jersey Devils. Game 7 was a perfect culmination of an amazing series between these two spectacular teams. The Rangers went on to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years after beating the Canucks in seven games while the Devils just had to wait one more year to win their franchise’s first Stanley Cup ever.
4. 2014 Western Conference Final – Kings Beat Blackhawks 5-4 In OT
Probably the fiercest and most competitive rivalry in hockey this decade has been the one between the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks. Since 2010 either the Blackhawks or the Kings have won the Stanley Cup all but one (2011, Boston Bruins) and twice one team has had to eliminate the other en route to their Stanley Cup victory.
In 2013, it was the Blackhawks that dispatched the Kings in five games on their way to the finals. But it was 2014’s epic battle between these two that everybody remembers. Seven games wasn’t enough to decide this tightly-contested series and the Kings just refused to yield to the Blackhawks. They trailed the series at numerous junctures and trailed in Game 7 late before it went to overtime where Alec Martinez ended it with a shot that went in off Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy’s leg. From there, Martinez’s heroics would only grow as he would also score the Stanley Cup clinching goal in double-overtime against the New York Rangers.
5. 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal – Bruins Beat Leafs 5-4 In OT
It was all over. The headlines were written, the matchups were set and the tee times were booked for the Bruins. All the Maple Leafs needed to do was nurse a 4-1 lead over the Bruins for 10 minutes to punch their ticket into the semifinals but they couldn’t get it done. The Bruins made it 4-2 with a little over 10 minutes to play but managed to score two goals in within the final two minutes of play to tie the game at 4-4. Then it was Patrice Bergeron who netted the game-winner in the first overtime frame to complete the epic comeback – or, epic collapse depending on whether you’re north of the border or not.
6. 1987 Patrick Division Semifinals – Islanders Beat Capitals 3-2 In 4th OT
You know if a game has a nickname that it had to be legendary and that’s certainly the case for the “Easter Epic” that took place between the Islanders and the Capitals on April 18 in 1987. The Islanders trailed 2-1 late into the third period but a nifty play from Hall of Famer Brian Trottier knotted the score at 2-2, where it would remain for the next 99 minutes of hockey. In the fourth overtime it was Pat LaFontaine who finally ended it with a spinning slapshot from near the blueline that eluded Washington netminder Bob Mason. While the Capital’s didn’t come out on top, they still have the distinction of playing in the longest Game 7 in NHL Playoff history.
7. 1971 Stanley Cup Final – Canadiens Beat Blackhawks 3-2
By the time the Stanley Cup Finals rolled around in 1971 the legend of Ken Dryden had begun to unfold. The then-rookie goaltender played just six regular season games before the playoffs began and he still earned the starting job. Dryden lead the Canadiens on a magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals where they faced the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks lead in the game 2-0 but Montreal would rally back with two goals late in the second period before winning the decisive Game 7 on a Herni Richard goal early in the third period.