Stanley Cup Comebacks, Stacked Up


Just like that, like lightning, a snap of the fingers, a flip of a switch …


Have you ever seen anything like it?

First, have you been to a hockey game in San Jose?

On a normal occasion, the “Shark Tank” is loud. It’s virtually AC/DC concert loud. I’ve sat in the seats for a playoff game. I’ve witnessed them from their press box. My first time: 2005, game three of the first round, and serving as statistician in the booth for a Nashville Predators telecast. I took my headset off during the lineups and felt the place shake. Eight years ago, Dany Heatley scored on the first shift of game one of the first round against the Los Angeles Kings. From the auxiliary press box, I could’ve sworn the roof was going to cave in.

Now, take last night’s circumstances, nothing short of a miracle. I can only imagine what my friendly colleagues Randy Hahn, Dan Rusanowsky, and Jon Root felt – nothing short of goosebumps.

After helping put the kids to bed, I watched the entire third period and overtime from the comfort of the couch. For the next 90 minutes, I don’t remember blinking.

Was it the “greatest” comeback in Stanley Cup Playoff history?

Here’s the good company, with established history:

  • 1982: AKA, the “Miracle on Manchester.” The Los Angeles Kings rallied from down 5-0 in the third period to beat a juggernaut in its infancy, the Edmonton Oilers (Gretzky era), 6-5 in overtime at the Forum. The Kings finished 48 points behind Edmonton. The Oilers, at one point in the game,were laughing on the bench. The Kings beat the Oilers, 3-2 in the series. By pure game score margin, it’s the largest comeback in Stanley Cup Playoff history. To note: the “Team of the 80’s” Oilers went onto win five Cups in a seven-year span. They would be fine. This game/series was a growing pain.

This was also Game 3 of the first round.

  • 1997: The Oilers were on the right side of this one. Down 3-0 in the third period to the Dallas Stars in their first home playoff game in five years, they raced back with three goals in the final four minutes of regulation and tying the game in a span of only 1:56. Kelly Buchberger won it at 9:56 of overtime, and the Oilers eventually eliminated the Stars in seven games. On this particular evening, they became the first team in Stanley Cup Playoff history (the second happened in 2017: see below) to overcome a three-goal deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to win a game.

This was Game 3 of the first round.

The Blues – who possessed a murderer’s row group of Brett Hull, Pierre Turgeon, Al MacInnis, and Chris Pronger – ended up with a five minute major power play. They scored four goals on the five minute major and won, 4-3. I was in the seats for this one as a youngster, and the place turned pin-drop silent. The Blues went onto sweep the Kings in four games.

This was Game 3 of the first round.

  • 2001: Kings, again (trust me, this is pure coincidence). This time, it’s the “Frenzy on Figueroa.”They rallied down 3-0 against the juggernaut Detroit Red Wings with six minutes left in regulation, tied the game on a Bryan Smolinski extra attacker goal with less than a minute left in regulation, then won it on an Eric Belanger OT goal – that also included the tension of video review.

The Kings needed this one. If they lost, they would’ve trailed 3-1, with Game 5 looming in Detroit. The Kings won the series, 4-2 for their first series victory since Gretzky was there in ’93 (note: I remember witnessing this from press box – Staples Center was as loud as an aircraft carrier).

This was Game 4 of the first round.

This was Game 3 of the first round.

This was Game 5 of the second round.

  • Last night: The Sharks were almost dead in the water, going down 3-0 on Max Pacioretty’s early third period goal. Admit: at that point, how many of you were tempted to turn the TV off? Then, “the penalty.”

Cody Eakin – who already had a goal upheld with video review for a potential high stick – became entangled with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski after an end-zone face-off. Pavelski violently fell to the ice and began to bleed. When the team doctors are rushed onto the ice – you know it’s serious. After much deliberation– and, this is where it turns into a raging debate even to this hour– Eakin was given a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct.

This to me felt like 1998, Blues vs. Kings all over again.

The Sharks stormed to life, urged by veteran Joe Thornton to “get out and score three (expletive) goals right now,”and scored just six seconds into the major. I felt it at that point. They completely stormed back to tie it just 3:40 into the major power play, and miraculously took the lead, 4-3 on Kevin LaBanc’s blast with 6:39 left in regulation.

Amazingly, a total of 52 seconds still remained on the power play.Amazingly over six minutes remained where anything could happen.

Another plot twist, indeed, happened. Vegas pulled Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater. Down to their last breath, Jonathan Marchessault tied the game with 47 seconds left. At that point, if you were left to just slam your keys on the smartphone or keyboard, it would’ve made total sense.

Then, with 1:41 left in overtime, Barclay Goodrow beat Brayden McNabb with speed and slipped a forehand deke past Fleury to shock the world.

The Sharks came back down 3-1 in the series to win this mind-boggling, jaw-dropping finish.

This was Game 7 of the first round. I repeat, this was GAME 7 of the first round.

Others you might remember/heard of:

  • 2018: we had to bring up the WHL for this exact reason. Game 6, Kevin Davis, OT winner, Conference championship. The Tips were down 5-2 in the third period at Tri-City. They erased it in the blink of an eye and nearly won it too, late in regulation. It remains, arguably, the greatest goal in Tips history.
  • 2013: if you follow deep into the minor pro and ECHL ranks, this one’s for you. The Stockton Thunder (now, Stockton Heat of the AHL) trailed the Las Vegas Wranglers in the third period, 3-0 in Game 6 at Stockton Arena. They were over 15 minutes away from doom. The Thunder ripped off five unanswered goals (ex-Prince George Cougar Daniel Gibb scored the eventual winner with 3:20 left) to win 5-3, and knock out the Wranglers in seven games en route to the Western Conference title. The first eight years of my career behind the mic were in Stockton, a place with many fond memories. This is one of them.
  • 1985: the Minnesota North Stars (led by eventual Tips head coach and North Stars captain Craig Hartsburg) rallied from down 4-0 in Game 5 to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-4 at Chicago Stadium. Chicago recovered though, winning the second round, 4-2.
  • 1971: Some will say it’s the greatest comeback in Montreal Canadiens playoff history (and they’ve won an NHL record 26 Cups – that’s saying something). Montreal finished 24 points behind their series opponent, Boston (who had Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito) in the regular season. The Bruins built a 5-1 lead Game 2 in the second period and appeared to be running away with it. The Canadiens stormed back to win 7-5. Montreal won the first round series in seven games.

Last night’s affair in San Jose happened with two seasons on the line, Game 7, with multiple, wild plot twists in the third period. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it, and I’m not sure I will ever again.

But then again, that’s hockey, and that’s live sports.

Who knows?

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fourth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 14th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

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