For a league that’s 104 years old, you’d think the NHL would have seen its two oldest franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, get together a little more often at playoff time. This is especially true when you factor in the league’s first 50 years when it was very small, and these two clubs usually made up a third of the NHL’s population.
But their meeting this year is only their 16th ever in a playoff series and first in 42 years. There remains something special about this rivalry which, for decades, has divided Canadian hockey fans. A series this special deserved a special finale and it got that, going the distance to Game 7.
Today, Faces looks back at our Top 5 classic Game 7 NHL moments.
- Too Many Men: Boston at Montreal Game 7 1979 NHL Semifinal. This was the game that would forever haunt former NHL head coach Don Cherry. Late in the third, the Bruins lead by a goal then get caught with too many men on the ice. Guy Lafleur scores the tying goal on the ensuing power play, and Montreal’s Yvon Lambert scores in overtime to win the series.
- The Messier Guarantee: New Jersey at New York Rangers, Game 7 1994 Eastern Conference Final. Prior to Game 6, with the Rangers down 3-2 in the series, captain Mark Messier tells reporters the Rangers will force a Game 7. Messier scores three goals in a comeback win in Game 6. Then, in Game 7, Stephane Matteau was the hero in double overtime, sending the Rangers to the final, where they’d claim their first Cup in 54 years.
- “Stevie Y” Goes Top Shelf: St. Louis at Detroit, Game 7, 1996 Western Semifinal. Wayne Gretzky’s brief stint with the St. Louis Blues comes to an end when he bobbles the puck in the neutral zone. Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman says, “Thank you very much, Wayne,” roars down the ice and lasers one past Blues’ goalie Jon Casey. As cellys go, they don’t come much better than this.
- Maroon 7: Dallas at St. Louis, Game 7, 2019 Western Semifinal. In January of 2019, despite being in last place overall, the Blues caught fire and won the 2019 Stanley Cup. But fans sometimes forget how close they were to elimination in round two. That is until Maroon, number 7 on May 7th in Game 7, buried this rebound to keep the Cup run going.
- Leafs Blow a 4-1 Third Period Lead: Toronto at Boston, Game 7, 2013 Eastern Quarterfinals. When the Leafs grabbed a 4-1 lead with only 14 minutes left in Game 7, it appeared certain they were finally going to get out of the first round. Um, not so much.
By Steve Warne