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Whether you’re a hockey fan or not, there is a general consensus that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the best in sports. Hockey players collectively take their game to another level during the postseason and that leads to great entertainment night after night.
One of the best things about playoff hockey is sudden death overtime. The sheer euphoria of scoring a game winning goal in overtime is unmatched, but that gets taken to another level during the playoffs.
Wednesday night’s Game 7 overtime thriller between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals is the latest example of how good these games can get. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the greatest and most memorable OT game winners in Stanley Cup Playoff history.
2014 Stanley Cup Finals/Western Conference Finals: Alec Martinez
The Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in a three-year span in 2014 and defenseman Alec Martinez played as big of a role as anyone in the epic title run. First, he scored the overtime winner in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks. As big as that goal was, he would one-up himself during the Stanley Cup Finals by scoring the series-clinching goal in OT of Game 5. Regardless of what he does during the rest of his career, Martinez has earned a permanent spot in the memories of Kings fans for his playoff heroics in two of the biggest games in franchise history.
1970 Stanley Cup Finals: Bobby Orr
The Boston Bruins came into the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals looking for their first championship since 1941. They dominated the St. Louis Blues during the first three games of the series, outscoring them 16 to 4. Game 4 would be the best game of the series, with the score knotted at three at the end of regulation. This overtime wouldn’t take long though, as Orr scored one of the most iconic goals in NHL history just 40 seconds into the extra session.
1980 Stanley Cup Finals: Bob Nystrom
The upstart New York Islanders were trying to make their first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals a successful one. Little did they know that it would be just the first of four straight titles. Stacked with a roster full of future Hall of Famers, the Islanders held a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum. Just over seven minutes into the first OT, Bob Nystrom took a pass from John Tonelli and deflected it into the back of the net, sending the Islander faithful into a frenzy.
1996 Western Conference Semifinals: Steve Yzerman
This series featured two teams boasting their fair share of superstars, with Yzerman, Sergei Federov, Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull just some of the big names that faced off in this classic. Detroit held home ice advantage which would prove beneficial as the series would go a full seven games. Despite all the talented goal scorers, Game 7 would be a scoreless tie after three periods. One overtime wouldn’t be enough to decide this one, but just over a minute into the second OT Yzerman picked up the puck off of a Gretzky neutral zone turnover and took a slapshot from the blue line that went over goalie John Casey’s blocker and into the top corner of the net. The angle from behind the net (shown 1:35 into the video below) is a replay that has been played over and over again in all the years since.
1999 Stanley Cup Finals: Brett Hull
The Dallas Stars were a very good team in the late 90’s but could never seem to get that big playoff win. That changed during the 1999 postseason as the Stars, led by Mike Modano, Brett Hull, Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour in goal, made an epic charge towards their first Stanley Cup. In the finals Dallas ran into Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres, and one of the best goaltending matchups in Stanley Cup history would ensue. The Stars would get the last laugh as Hull would bang in a rebound in the third overtime to clinch the series for Dallas. The goal has long been considered a controversial one as back then, the rules were that if any part of a player was in the goal crease when the puck entered the goal, it would be deemed illegal. Hull’s skate was in the crease before the puck, but the bang-bang play would stand and the Stars claimed the cup.
2000 Stanley Cup Finals: Jason Arnott
One year after Hull’s goal gave Dallas their first Stanley Cup, the Stars were back in the finals looking to defend their crown. This time they would meet Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils and once again, an epic goaltending battle would rule the finals. New Jersey took a 3-2 lead in the series and headed to Dallas looking deny them a second cup. Just like in the previous year, the deciding game would take multiple overtimes. This time the winning goal would come in the second overtime as veteran Jason Arnott would bury an amazing pass from Patrick Elias past Ed Belfour to win the cup.
1994 Eastern Conference Finals: Stephane Matteau
The New York Rangers had been waiting a long time for their chance to win the Stanley Cup again. It had been 54 years since their last championship when the ’94 Rangers made their epic run at the cup. Seemingly unchallenged through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Rangers met their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils, in the Eastern Conference Finals. Led by rookie goaltender Martin Brodeur, the Devils gave New York just about all they could handle during the first five games, taking a 3-2 series lead back to Jersey for Game 6. Mark Messier guaranteed that the Rangers would win Game 6, and they did, setting up the unforgettable Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. It appeared that New York had the game in hand but Valeri Zelepukin tied the game for the Devils with just 7.7 seconds left in regulation to send the game to OT. Fast forward to the second overtime period when Stephane Matteau picked up the puck in the corner to Brodeur’s right and skated behind the net. He wrapped the puck around the left side of the goal and it squeaked between Brodeur’s pads, sending the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals. There are videos with better quality out there, but the one below has the famous “Matteau!! Matteau!! Matteau!!” call that Rangers fans undoubtedly will never forget.
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