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Ranking: What’s the greatest Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history?

 

 

When the Vancouver Canucks host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, it will be the 16th Game 7 played in the Stanley Cup Final since 1914.

Fact is, we've been spoiled with them lately: This is the sixth Game 7 of the Final since 2001. Consider that there was one played between 1966 and 1986.

Not all Game 7s are equal. Some are well-played masterpieces of drama and competition. Others are tension-filled slogs in which one team overpowers the other.

We looked back at all 15 previous Stanley Cup Final Game 7s and ranked them with our usual brand of whimsy. Which one ranks above all others?

And here … we … go.

Ranking: What’s the greatest Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history?

 

15. June 9, 2003: New Jersey Devils 3, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 0

 

A Cinderella story from Disneyland, as the Mighty Ducks went from a franchise that had one playoff series win to its credit to one that came within a win of the Cup. The Devils dominated in Jersey, pitching two shutouts and winning a wild 6-3 Game 5 to close to within a win of the Cup. The Ducks won OT games at home and then a 5-2 victory in Game 6 to force a Game 7 — a Game 6 that saw Paul Kariya(notes) get walloped by Scott Stevens and live to tell the tale.

The Game: This one was most memorable for the heroics of Mike Rupp, who hadn't played since early May and only played in Game 7 due to an injury to Joe Nieuwendyk. Rupp scored at 2:22 of the second period and then assisted on Jeff Friesen's(notes) goal at 12:18 to build a 2-0 lead; it was 3-0 after Rupp assisted Friesen again in the third.  The Ducks couldn't solve Marty Brodeur, who stopped 24 shots for his third shutout of the Final — yet it was Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) who skated away with the Conn Smythe in a losing effort.

Why It's Ranked Here: Because it was a Game 7. Honestly, this was a Devils stranglehold defense game, limiting the Ducks to five shots in the first period and eventually shutting them out. The Rupp heroics were great, and the Giggy drama (the fans booed him) was compelling. But as a quality Game 7 … quack.

 

14. April 25, 1964: Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Detroit Red Wings 0

 

Alas, Game 6 was the real story here, as Leafs defenseman Bobby Baun broke a bone in his leg after taking a Gordie Howe slap shot, left on a stretcher, returned to the game in overtime and beat Terry Sawchuk after stealing a clearing attempt at the point. The Leafs won, 4-3, to force Game 7 ...

The Game: … a Game 7 at Maple Leaf Gardens that was a 4-0 curb-stomping and saw Andy Bathgate tally the game-winning goal at 3:04 of the first period. Johnny Bower pitched the shutout for the third straight Leafs Cup.  

Why It's Ranked Here: Because this isn't a list of Game 6 Victories By Guys With Broken Legs.

 

13. May 1, 1965: Montreal Canadiens 4, Chicago Blackhawks 0

 

The Habs took two, the Hawks took two, the Habs took one, the Hawks took one, and that's how you end up in the Game 7. And also how you do the cha-cha-cha, we think.

The Game: Gump Worsley's first Final appearance was a memorable one, as he pitched the shutout in Game 7, 4-0, giving Montreal the Stanley Cup. And he got some offensive support right away: Jean Beliveau scored 14 seconds into the game in Montreal, one of the reasons he won the first Conn Smythe Trophy that year for playoff MVP. Here's how it all ended:

Why It's Ranked Here: Montreal had this one in hand, scoring all of its goals in the first period, and it was another case of the home team holding serve for the entirety of the round. There were better games in the series, including Game 6.

 

12. April 14, 1955: Detroit Red Wings 3, Montreal Canadiens 1

 

The fifth straight appearance in the Final for Montreal, which is a shock considering how bereft of talent their roster was; quite a struggle when you only have Rocket and Boom Boom and Harvey and Beliveau and Plate and …

(Well, OK, they didn't have The Rocket: You recall something about a suspension and a riot back in 1955 involving Mr. Richard.)

Detroit had 95 points to Montreal's 93 in the regular season. They split the first four games, and Montreal forced a Game 7 with a 6-3 win in Game 6 at home.

The Game: Alex Delvecchio scored two goals and Gordie Howe had the eventual game-winner at 19:49 of the second period to give the Red Wings a 3-1 win and the Cup … sadly, the last one of Howe's career. He set an NHL record with 20 points in 11 playoff games in 1955.

Why It's Ranked Here: By most accounts, not the most thrilling Cup Final Game 7, as Detroit got defensive as the game wore on. It certainly doesn't match the OT thrills of the 1954 matchup between the teams. Plus, the home team won every game of the series, and how boring is that? Oh wait, Bruins and Canucks did what now …?

 

11. June 7, 2004: Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Calgary Flames 1

 

The Lightning were the top team in the East with 106 points, and needed seven games to vanquish the Flyers in the conference finals. The Flames were the six seed out of the West with 94 points. The teams traded OT wins in Games 5 and 6, each winning on the road. Which probably sounds like the most exciting thing in the series, but that would ignore the glory of Iggy vs. Vinny.

The Game: In which Ruslan Fedotenko(notes) forever established himself as a clutch playoff performer. The Tank scored on the power play in the first period and at even strength in the second to build a 2-0 lead for the home team. Calgary's Craig Conroy(notes) cut it to 2-1 with a power-play goal in the third period, but that was as close as they got against Nikolai Khabibulin(notes). The teams combined with 32 shots in the game, including four apiece in the second period. Yuck.

Why It's Ranked Here: Not the most electrifying Game 7, as the Lightning clamped down on defense and Jarome Iginla(notes) was a non-factor. Brad Richards(notes) won the Conn Smythe. Dave Andreychuk broke through after playing the most regular-season games without a Cup in NHL history, and the celebration was great. But with the lockout looming, the whole thing had a 'staring into the hockey abyss' kind of vibe.

10. June 9, 2001: Colorado Avalanche 3, New Jersey Devils 1

 

The defending champ Devils took a 3-2 series lead with a win in Denver in Game 5, but the 'Lanche responded with an emphatic Game 6 win in Jersey, 4-0, to force Game 7 with the Cup on the line. This was the 'Get Ray Bourque The Cup'/Exit 16W series.

The Game: It came down to 79 seconds in the second period for Colorado, as Alex Tanguay(notes) scored on a 2-on-1 after a Joe Sakic(notes) shot and a power-play goal by Sakic to make it 2-0. The Devils scored a power play goal via Petr Sykora(notes), but they couldn't solve Patrick Roy, who gave up one goal in this last 120 minutes of the series.

Why It's Ranked Here: The Avs became the first team since the 1971 Canadiens to come back from down 3-2 to win the Cup. And because as much as the sight makes Devils fans cringe, the whole Ray Bourque celebration at the end was great theater.  

 

9. April 22, 1945: Toronto Maple Leafs 2, Detroit Red Wings 1

 

The Wings finished 15 points better than the Leafs in the regular season, but were shut out three straight games by goalie Frank "Ulcers" McCool to start the Final. Then the Wings roared back with three consecutive wins — including an OT victory in Game 6 on a goal from the impossibly named Mud Bruneteau — trying to become only the second team in NHL history to rally from that deficit in the playoffs. (Spoiler Warning: The other team may have been the 1942 Leafs, and they have rallied to beat the Wings. Spooky, huh?)

The Game: Toronto opened the scoring in the first period, but Detroit knotted the game in the second period after McCool left his crease to play the puck and Murray Armstrong caught him out of position to score. (Roberto Luongo(notes) said he would have stopped it.) It was 1-1 in the third period when Babe Pratt scored on the power play at 12:14.

Why It's Ranked Here: The circumstances were similar to the other crazy comeback between these teams; but as you'll see later, that Game 7 was a classic while this one was just a nail-biter. Although it should be noted that this was the first Game 7 win for a road team in NHL Stanley Cup Final history.

Allegedly the favorite game of a then-15-year-old Mark Recchi(notes).

 

8. May 31, 1987: Edmonton Oilers 3, Philadelphia Flyers 1

 

The Flyers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7 in Edmonton. Why? Because Mike Keenan, evil trickster that he is, brought the Stanley Cup into the Flyers' dressing room before Game 5 to inspire them.

The Game: The Oilers were one year removed from a postseason "disaster," losing in the semifinals in seven to the hated Calgary Flames. So they opened a little tight in Game 7 against the Flyers, who were given a two-man advantage a minute into the game and converted on it. The lead lasted six minutes, as Mark Messier tied it. Jarri Kurri, on an assist from The Great One, gave Edmonton the lead at 14:59 of the second period and they went on to win the Cup, 3-1.

Why It's Ranked Here: The Flyers made this interesting. Really interesting. The Oilers took over later in the game, but this one was up for grabs for a good while. The squirmy (but well deserved) awarding of the Conn Smythe to Ron Hextall in a losing effort made it even more memorable.

 

7. June 19, 2006: Carolina Hurricanes 3, Edmonton Oilers 1

 

The first Final after the lockout was a weird one: The Oilers were the furthest-advancing No. 8 seed since the NHL's playoff format change in 1994, and the Hurricanes began the postseason with Martin Gerber(notes) as their starting goalie before Cam Ward(notes) took over the job in Game 2 of the first round.

The dynamics of the series changed dramatically when Dwayne Roloson(notes), the Oilers' rock between the pipes, was injured in Game 1 of the Final and replacement Ty Conklin(notes) misplayed the puck to give the Hurricanes the win. Carolina had a 3-1 series lead, but Edmonton roared back with an OT win in Game 5 and a 4-0 Jussi Markkanen shutout in Game 6.

The Game: Aaron Ward(notes) got the home crowd rocking with a goal just 1:26 into the game, and Frantisek Kaberle(notes) made it 2-0 in the second period on the power play. The game took a turn when Fernando Pisani(notes) scored at 1:03 of the third period, but the Oilers couldn't solve Ward again. Justin Williams'(notes) empty netter iced the 3-1 win. The real killer for the Oilers: a squandered 5-on-3 power play in the second period. Oh, and a great save by Ward on Pisani late in the game.

 

Why It's Ranked Here: The series was unpredictable, so Game 7 wasn't a given … until one saw how much fire the Hurricanes came out with in the first 40 minutes and how contained the Oilers' few offensive options looked. Exciting at times, but in no way a classic — although there was some drama about Cam Ward winning the Conn Smythe over Chris Pronger(notes), who carried a No. 8 seed to the seventh game.

 

6. June 12, 2009: Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1

 

A rematch from the previous Final, won by Detroit, the teams split the first four games and the Red Wings dominated Game 5 (5-0) to move to within a victory of a repeat. But the Penguins gutted out a 2-1 win in Game 6 to force Game 7

The Game: Wow, what a finish. The Penguins lost captain Sidney Crosby(notes) in the second period after taking a Johan Franzen(notes) hit, injuring his knee. So it was up to Max Talbot(notes) of all people to carry the offense, scoring two goals roughly 10 minutes apart in the second period. (Conn Smythe winner Evgeni Malkin(notes) had one helper.) Jonathan Ericsson(notes) cut the lead to 2-1 for the Red Wings, but they couldn't get one by Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) during one of the best last-seconds sequences in Game 7 history:

 

Why It's Ranked Here: Major injury, unlikely heroes, great goaltending, a third-period surge by the home team, last-second drama and the Cup to the road team? Instant classic.

 

5. April 16, 1954: Detroit Red Wings 2, Montreal Canadiens 1

 

It was the fourth straight season Montreal made the Final, during their 10-year streak. Down 3-1 in the series, the Canadiens won 1-0 in OT and 4-1 at Detroit to force a Game 7 back in Montreal.

The Game: It was a 1-1 battle between these two teams that went into overtime, where Tony Leswick's shot went off the glove of Doug Harvey and into the net behind Gerry McNeil at 4:29 to give the Red Wings the Cup and the 2-1 win.

Why It's Ranked Here: Any Game 7 that goes into overtime deserves a place here, and especially when one team nearly pulls off a huge rally in the series. But a fluke goal brings it down a notch.

 

4. May 18, 1971: Montreal Canadiens 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2

 

Six years after they met in a Cup Final Game 7, the Canadiens and Blackhawks met at Chicago Stadium after the Habs rallied to tie the series in Game 6. Star-studded Final, with Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito vs. the Mahovlich Bros, Jean Beliveau (in his swan song) and some kid named Ken Dryden.

The Game: Terrific finale for what was a memorable postseason. The Blackhawks led 2-0 late in the second period when Jacques Lemaire scored from the red line. (Not sure what's more shocking: a goal from the red line or referencing Jacques Lemaire in the context of offensive achievement.) Henri Richard scored to tie the game heading into the third period, where he scored 2:34 into the final frame to give Montreal the 3-2 lead and the eventual win at Chicago. It looked like this:

Why It's Ranked Here: Hall of Fame talent, impressive rally and a crazy goal to spark it. Plus, Ken Dryden wins a Conn Smythe at 23 years old, which was quite a storyline.

 

3. June 14, 1994: New York Rangers 3, Vancouver Canucks 2

Ho-hum … 54-year Stanley Cup curse … blown 3-1 series lead … hopes and dreams of millions of New Yorkers riding on a Game 7 effort from their hockey heroes … no pressure.

The Game: Good lord, did this live up to the hype. The Rangers scored twice in the opening period on goals from Brian Leetch and Adam Graves 3:43 apart. Trevor Linden struck back in the second period shorthanded, and then answered again in the third after a Mark Messier goal made it 3-1. Vancouver battled, but couldn't solve Mike Richter as the Rangers sent New York into hysterics and broke the hearts of millions of hockey fans. Not those in Canada, but rather those of us who adored the "1940" chant, forever lost.

Here's the post that Nathan Lafayette hit late in the third, quite infamously:

Why It's Ranked Here: Because anything Mark Messier was in while wearing a Rangers uniform during 1994 is legendary. We'll include Madonna on that list as well.  

 

2. April 23, 1950: Detroit Red Wings 4, New York Rangers 3

 

Home-ice advantage is always the elephant in the room during the playoffs … but what happens to home-ice advantage when there's an actual elephant in the room?

Answer: You move two Rangers home games to Toronto because the circus has taken over Madison Square Garden. Yea, NHL!

Hell of a series, this one: The teams traded wins until Game 5, when the Rangers took a 3-2 lead in overtime, their second straight OT win. Detroit forced Game 7 with a 5-4 victory at home.

The Game: The first overtime Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history, and by virtue of that the first double-OT Game 7 as well. Jim McFadden scored with 4:03 in the third period to tie the game at 4-4. In double OT, it was Pete Babando who scored at 8:31 to win the Cup for the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3. This newsreel explains it all and is incredibly awesome:

Why It's Ranked Here: One of the most intense Game 7s of all time, and one of the most surreal Final series of all time, between the circus act in MSG and the fact that the Red Wings lost Gordie Howe to a skull fracture on that infamous collision with Teeder Kennedy in the previous round. Also, this was the victory that inspired Terrible Ted Lindsay to pick up the Stanley Cup and skate it around the rink. We're still not sure who the first player was to take it to a strip club. (Looking at you, Pete Babando.)

 

 

1. April 18, 1942: Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Detroit Red Wings 1

 

Called by some "the greatest comeback in the history of professional sports," the Leafs rallied from a 3-0 deficit after coach Hap Day benched his veteran starters for Game 4 in favor of younger players. (Good lord, could you imagine the media reaction to that in 2011?)  Toronto, which finished 15 points better than Detroit in the standings, went from being outscored 12-6 in the first three games to outscoring the Wings 16-6 in the next three wins.

The Game: Played on a Saturday in Detroit, the Wings broke through in the second period and led 1-0 entering the third. But Sweeney Schriner scored on a power play, Pete Langelle followed with the tie-breaking goal three minutes later and Schriner iced it with a short-handed goal later in the period. He was the last player to tally twice in a period during a Cup Final Game 7 until Max Talbot did the same in 2009.

Why It's Ranked Here: Not only did the Leafs have to rally from down 3-0, they had to rally in the third period of Game 7 to complete the comeback — and they beat a Jack Adams-coached team to do so.

Plus, the victory ended a lengthy Cup drought for Toronto … seriously, could you imagine a Leafs fan having to wait 10 years between championships?

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