Hockey is back, but that doesn’t mean I’ve completely forgotten about The Greatest Playoff Games in NHL History series. Time to take a break from the ongoing action and jump right back into this with an update covering my personal favourite decade of hockey, the 90’s!
May 15, 1990 – Edmonton Oilers vs. Boston Bruins – Finals Game 1
The 90’s kicked off with a bang as the Oilers and Bruins squared off in a rematch of the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals. Once again Edmonton would largely dominate the series and come out on top, but in the early going it didn’t look like it would be easy as Game 1 went to triple overtime. With just under 5 minutes to go in the third OT, Petr Klima came off the bench, corralled a drop pass, and sniped a shot past Andy Moog, putting an end to the longest game in Finals history. Result: 3-2 Oilers in 3OT.
May 14, 1993 – New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – Quarterfinals Game 7
This series saw the Islanders put an end to the potential Penguins dynasty as they pulled off a monumental upset in defeating the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. Game 7 saw the Penguins strike first, but the Islanders came back with three straight goals and held this lead until late in the third. With just under 4 minutes to go Ron Francis scored to pull the Penguins within one and then Rick Tocchet tied the game in the final minute. Everything looked to be going Pittsburgh’s way once more, but in overtime it was David Volek who became the hero as he put a slapshot past Tom Barrasso to complete the upset. Result: 4-3 Islanders in OT.
May 29, 1993 – Los Angeles Kings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs – Semifinals Game 7
It’s a game that arguably never should have happened, but it did, so deal with it. This was a game where the stars for both teams laid it all on the line. Wayne Gretzky opened the scoring and setup another to give the Kings a 2-0 lead, but the Leafs stormed back with goals from Wendel Clark and Glenn Anderson. Soon after Gretzky would score his second of the night, but Clark responded with another goal of his own to tie it once more. Unheralded Mike Donnelly put the Kings ahead for good with just under 4 minutes to go and Gretzky completed his hat-trick with an insurance marker 30 seconds later. A late surge by the Leafs pulled them within one, but that was as close as they would get. Result: 5-4 Kings.
April 27, 1994 – New Jersey Devils vs. Buffalo Sabres – First Round Game 6
Probably the greatest goaltending battle in NHL Playoff history. Dominik Hasek, having already put together his first Vezina Trophy winning performance during the regular season, was in tough against a superior Devils squad led by rookie goaltender Martin Brodeur. Neither goalie would give up so much as an inch during the entirety of regulation and this continued throughout three additional overtime periods, meaning both goalies essentially pitched back-to-back shutouts. In total they combined for 119 saves, but it was Hasek’s 70 save performance that came out on top after Dave Hannan scored in the fourth overtime period to send the series “back to where Jimmy Hoffa is”. Result: 1-0 Sabres in 4OT.
April 30, 1994 – Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames – First Round Game 7
This series was eerily similar to the last series between the two back in 1989, only this time the Canucks had the firepower to compete with Calgary, lead by the NHL’s top goal scorer, Pavel Bure. Down 3-1 in the series, the Canucks won each of the next two games in overtime to force Game 7. Just when you thought the series couldn’t get better, it did, as Game 7 also saw OT, along with two of the most amazing plays in Canucks history; Kirk McLean’s ridiculous stop on Robert Reichel and Pavel Bure’s spectacular breakaway game winner in double overtime. Result: 4-3 Canucks in 2OT.
May 27, 1994 – New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers – Semifinals Game 7
The series is remembered most for “The Guarantee” as Mark Messier proved his word was law, scoring a hat-trick to force Game 7. However, in actuality Game 7 was the real highlight of the series, a defensive battle and goaltending duel between Martin Brodeur and Mike Richter. Brodeur was the busier of the two, but he allowed a goal to Brian Leetch during the second that looked as though it would hold up to be the winner until Valeri Zelepukin beat Richter with a mere 7.7 seconds remaining in regulation. The goaltending duel continued in overtime until early in the second OT when Stephane Matteau scored on a wrap-around to send the Rangers to the Finals. Result: 2-1 Rangers in 2OT.
April 24, 1996 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals – First Round Game 4
Quite possibly the strangest game on this list. It featured Tom Barrasso leaving the game after the first period due to muscle spasms and Mario Lemieux being ejected in the second period for pummeling the snot out of Todd Krygier. Nonetheless, it was a thrilling game, filled with great scoring chances and spectacular goaltending from both Ken Wregget and Olaf Kolzig. Of course, it also featured numerous periods of overtime. The best chance to end the game occurred during the second OT when Joe Juneau was awarded a penalty shot, however he was denied by Wregget. Finally, with less than a minute to go in the fourth OT, Petr Nedved put an end to the longest game since 1936. Result: 3-2 Penguins in 4OT.
April 29, 1997 – Edmonton Oilers vs. Dallas Stars – First Round Game 7
As you should already know by now, I love upsets, and this was one of the greatest in NHL history. I also love amazing goaltending and Curtis Joseph was pretty much a human highlight reel throughout this one, making ridiculous save after ridiculous save. There was also plenty of aggression and huge body checks as the series had quickly turned into a bitter rivalry. This one went to sudden death overtime and it was there that CuJo continued to bail out the Oilers until Todd Marchant streaked down the ice, past a stumbling Grant Ledyard, and fired a shot over the shoulder of Andy Moog to complete the upset.