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Breaking Down the Biggest Comebacks in NHL History

From the regular season, to the playoff battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup, here are the most memorable (and lesser known) comebacks ever.

The 2010 Flyers and the biggest NHL comebacks ever
Credit-Philadelphia Inquirer/Joker Mag

There are two sides to a memorable sports comeback.

On one side you have a team etching themselves into the history books, highlight shows, and watercooler talk for making the heroic and unexpected “back from the dead” victory.

On the other side, you have a team disintegrate and unravel in front of the entire sports world.

Since the league’s founding in 1917, NHL fans have been fortunate to experience some of the greatest comeback victories in sports history – be it during the regular season or the playoff battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

2013 Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The 2013 Boston Bruins celebrate their remarkable comeback over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL playoffs

Three years earlier, the Boston Bruins were on the wrong side of a playoff upset. However, in a world of “what have you done lately,” that seemed to be erased in 2013 when the Bruins became the first team in NHL history to clinch a Game 7 while trailing by three goals entering the final period.

Facing a three-goal deficit, Nathan Horton cut the lead to two at the 9:18 mark of the third. With things still looking grim, Milan Lucic gave the Bears hope as he netted a goal with 1:22 left in the final period.

Just thirty seconds later, Patrice Bergeron tied the game at 4-4, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

As a Bruins fan, if you weren’t at TD Garden or in front of the TV on March 13th, 2013, hopefully, you had your radio on as announcer Dave Goucher captured the historic moment, excitedly repeating, “Bergeron! Bergeron!” as the Bruins assistant captain slid the puck into the Leafs’ net.

RELATED: Tim Thomas’ Dauntless Battle to the NHL Glory

2010 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins

During the 2009-2010 regular season, the Philadelphia Flyers won the regular season matchup against the Boston Bruins with a 2-1-1 record over their four meetings. But regular season records mean nothing when the playoffs start.

After taking care of their respective first-round opponents, the long-time Eastern Conference rivals met in the semi-finals.

While the first two games were decided by one goal apiece, including an overtime victory in Game 1, the Bruins took a commanding 3-0 series lead following a lopsided 4-1 decision in Game 3.

Down but not out, the Flyers grabbed a must-win OT victory in Game 4, a blowout decision in Game 5, a low-scoring squeaker in Game 6, and – after being down 3-0 – in the series-clinching game, made a comeback for the ages.

After qualifying for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, the Flyers silenced the Boston faithful by sending their hockey heroes home with a 4-3 comeback victory.

With the loss, the Bruins became the third team in NHL history to drop a series after holding a 3-0 lead.

“The bottom line is we had a 3-0 lead in the series, we had a 3-0 lead tonight, and we blew them both,” said then Boston head coach Claude Julian.

2009 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Calgary Flames

Being that it was an early season game, chances are that few remember the October 12th, 2009 Western Conference meeting between the Blackhawks and Flames. But it was one for the record books nonetheless.

Jumping out to a five-goal advantage early, including three goals in less than a minute, and leading 5-1 after the first twenty minutes, it looked as though Calgary had the game in the bag. Clearly, this wasn’t what fans in the United Center had planned on, with many assuming the game was all but over.

“We were embarrassed. Our fans weren’t very happy and they let us know about it. We want to have good starts and we want to help our goaltender out. That was unacceptable,” noted Hawks’ Brent Seabrook after the Flames chased Cristobal Huet back to the bench in the first period.

The second period was a different story as a trifecta of Chicago goals brought the game to within a single goal.

Defenseman Patrick Sharp sent the packed house ballistic when he tied the game early in the third period. And Brent Seabrook’s goal just twenty-six seconds into overtime not only won the game but tied the biggest comeback in NHL history.

2008 Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers

Speaking of a rally from a five-goal deficit: on February 19th, 2008, the Montreal Canadiens did just that when they faced off against the New York Rangers.

After goaltender Carey Price was pulled after the first three Rangers goals, Cristobal Huet (yup, the same guy who was on the wrong side of the Blackhawks’ comeback) kept things relatively close for the remainder of the night.

Holding a 5-0 lead in the second period, everything unraveled for the Rangers as the Canadiens scored two goals in the middle stanza and three more in the final twenty minutes in front of a sold-out crowd at the Bell Centre.

As the game went to a shootout, Canadiens captain Saku Koivu finished the most amazing comeback in team history, while Rangers Brendan Shanahan was left looking for a silver lining, “It’s not every day you blow a five-goal lead. But we got one point and we’re not going to make any more of it.”

1999 Florida Panthers vs. Colorado Avalanche

A Pavel Bure natural hat-trick within the first two periods paved the way for the Florida Panthers to take a convincing 5-0 lead deep into their March 3rd, 1999 meeting with the Colorado Avalanche.

What happened next can best be summarized by then-Panthers coach Terry Murray: “I’ve never seen anything like this before. This is the biggest meltdown I’ve ever seen. Absolute total embarrassment.”

Over the course of the final twenty-two minutes of the game, the Panthers – led by Peter Forsberg’s trifecta of both goals and assists – dominated the game, holding the Avs scoreless en route to a 7-5 comeback victory.

RELATED: Breaking Down The Shortest NHL Players – Now & Throughout Hockey History

1986 St. Louis Blues vs. Calgary Flames

After trailing the Calgary Flames 4-1 entering the third period in what was once known as the Campbell Conference Finals, the St. Louis Blues completed the now-famous “Monday Night Miracle”.

In what would potentially be the series-clinching game, the Flames maintained their three-goal edge. That is until the Blues scored three goals during the final dozen minutes of action in front of a sold-out crowd at the St. Louis Arena.

With the score tied at five apiece, the game went into overtime where Doug Wickenheiser completed one of the biggest comeback victories in Blues history.

Although they managed to tie the series at three games apiece, the Blues would fall short of a complete comeback, dropping Game 7 two days later.

1985 Minnesota North Stars vs. Chicago Blackhawks

While they failed to capture a Stanley Cup before relocating to Dallas, the Minnesota North Stars still had a handful of memorable moments during their twenty-six-year history.

Despite posting the worst regular season record of the eight teams in the Campbell Conference to qualify for the playoffs, the North Stars managed to sweep the heavily favored St. Louis Blues 3-0 in the first round.

Facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Division Finals, the North Stars managed to grab the W in the first game, before dropping the next three. In a win-or-go-home Game 5, the North Stars found themselves trailing 4-0 on the road at a crazed Chicago Stadium.

At the 10:28 mark of the second period, Tony McKegney proved the North Stars had a pulse, triggering an onslaught of five straight goals, including Dennis Maruk’s game-winner just 1:14 into overtime.

The North Stars would go down fighting in Game 6, taking the Blackhawks to a third straight OT game, before bowing out 6-5 in Game 6.

1982 Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers

Known as the “Miracle on Manchester”, the third game in the best-of-five, first-round playoff series between the LA Kings and the heavily favored Edmonton Oilers produced not just one upset, but three.

After being down 4-1 midway through the first period in Game 1, the Kings claimed a 10-8 victory in the highest-scoring playoff game in NHL history.

Possessing a five-goal lead entering the third period of Game 3, the Oilers silenced the California crowd. Or so it seemed.

Starting at the 2:46 mark, the Kings began a comeback for the ages, with five straight goals, including two on the power play and the final game-tying goal with just five seconds remaining.

“All the passion, will and the hatred we had for Edmonton came out in that third period,” said Kings defenseman Mark Hardy. “Talk about a miracle…”

The Kings’ sixth and game-winning goal came just 2:35 into overtime on their 51st shot of the game.

The Oilers would win Game 4, bringing the series back to Edmonton for a fifth and final game, in which the Kings would complete the series upset with a 7-4 victory.

1975 New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The 1975 NHL Playoffs was the first time that the top three teams from each division in the Prince of Wales and the Clarence Campbell Conferences advanced to the post-season.

This quarterfinal matchup was also the first playoff meeting between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After dropping the first two games in Pittsburgh and the first game on home ice, things looked bleak for the Islanders in their first trip to the NHL Playoffs. Putting the first point on the board in Game 4 gave fans in the Nassau Coliseum a bit of hope as the team would stave off elimination with a 3-1 victory.

Another two-point victory in Pittsburgh – despite being outshot 38-19 – would give the Islanders a glimmer of hope, trailing the series 3-2.

Chico Resch stood on his head in Game 6, stopping 39 of 40 Penguins shots, as the Islanders tied the series at three games apiece. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Resch outdid himself two nights later, stopping all thirty of the Penguins’ shots as the Islanders completed the near-impossible series comeback with a 1-0 shutout.

1942 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings

The reverse sweep is a rarity in sports. In fact of the three major North American sports leagues, it has only happened five times and only once in the Stanley Cup Finals.

While the first two games of the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings were fairly close in score, the Wings won Game 3 in convincing fashion. Everyone believed Detroit was on their way to winning their third Championship.

But after staving off elimination on enemy ice, the Leafs left Detroit’s Olympia Stadium with a 4-3 victory before laying a 9-3 beating on the Wings back home in Maple Leaf Gardens. Two days later, the Leafs tied the series with a 3-0 shutout.

On April 18th – fourteen days after the series started – the Leafs came back from a three-game deficit to win their fourth Stanley Cup with a 3-1 victory. Leafs forward Syl Apps captured the moment when speaking with the Canadian Press with two simple words, “By Jiminy!”

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Written By

Life-long sports fan and avid basketball junkie in every sense of the word. The same passion I have for the Lakers translates to my extreme dislike for the Duke Blue Devils. As much as I cheer for the favorite and the dynasty, I appreciate and applaud the underdog and the grind whether you are a weekend warrior or a professional, both on and off the field.



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