Whether the Predators win or lose the Stanley Cup final, you can rest assured that some retellings of the Nashville’s berth into the first final in franchise will conveniently gloss over Game 5.
The contest was a laugher from start to finish for the Predators, but it wasn’t just that Nashville came out flat that made the game so lopsided. It was arguably the most complete game the Pittsburgh Penguins have played in the post-season since their Game 7 victory over the Washington Capitals in the second round. In the first seven minutes of the contest, Justin Schultz and Bryan Rust had already found the scoresheet, and any hope the Predators had of getting back into the game seemed to die when Evgeni Malkin snapped home the Penguins’ third goal of the opening frame with 11 seconds left on the clock.
Despite some chances here and there throughout the second period, things didn’t get any better for Nashville as the game wore on. After Pekka Rinne was swapped out for Jusse Saros to start the middle frame, Pittsburgh struck three more times before the period was out, pushing their lead to six. In football terminology, the Penguins put up the touchdown, but thankfully for the Predators, that’s where the bleeding stopped. Pittsburgh didn’t add the conversion.
The lopsided score jives with what has gone on throughout the series — each team has a 4-1 win to their name, and the Predators outscored the Penguins 9-2 across Games 3 and 4 — but there’s absolutely no doubt that Game 5 was the biggest thumping either team has handed out in the final. In fact, it was such a beatdown that it reached near historic proportions. Including Thursday night’s contest, only eight times in league history has the margin of victory been six or more goals in the Stanley Cup final.
Take a look back at the five most recent six-or-more goal blowouts in the final:
June 6, 2011
Boston Bruins: 8
Vancouver Canucks: 1
Through the first two games of the 2011 final, the Bruins hadn’t done much to give goaltender Tim Thomas some goal support. The Boston keeper was standing on his head — he had made 63 saves through the first two outings — but the Bruins headed back to Beantown trailing the Vancouver Canucks 2-0 in the final, making Game 3 a must-win for Boston.
It looked like the game was going to follow much the same pattern as the opening contests, however. After the first frame, the Bruins and Canucks were deadlocked at zero. But 11 seconds into the second period, Andrew Ference beat Roberto Luongo and the floodgates opened. Boston laid it on, scoring on the power play, shorthanded and adding a second even-strength tally, sprinting to a 4-0 lead in the second, and midway through the third the Bruins started to light it up again. Boston added four more goals — including a second shorthanded tally and one more with the extra man — to walk to an 8-1 victory and their first win of the final.
Don’t take the one-sided score to mean Thomas had an easy night, though. He stopped 40 shots in the victory and went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in what became one of the most lopsided finals in history. The Bruins finished with a plus-15 goal differential.
June 6, 1996
Colorado Avalanche: 8
Florida Panthers: 1
Only three years into their existence, the Panthers were on a magical run in 1996, but after beating the Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins en route to the Stanley Cup final, Florida was stopped dead in their tracks in the final by a powerhouse Avalanche team. There was no greater indication of the gap in ability than Game 2 of the final, when Colorado absolutely wiped the floor with Florida.
Four minutes into the contest, Peter Forsberg scored the game’s opening goal on a fluke, broken play. It looked as though the Panthers were going to stay in the outing, however, when Stu Barnes connected on the power play only minutes later. However, penalty trouble for Florida resulted in a Colorado onslaught.
First, it was Rene Corbet who gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead. Then, over the final seven minutes of the frame, Forsberg completed a hat trick to put Colorado up 4-1 after 20 minutes. From there, it was a walk. Patrick Roy stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced, Corbet added a second goal and Joe Sakic finished with four assists.
The Avalanche won the final two outings of the series by one-goal margins and stretched the total goal differential to plus-11, the fifth-largest in history, en route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
May 25, 1991
Pittsburgh Penguins: 8
Minnesota North Stars: 0
The third-biggest thumping in final history came when a Penguins squad that had a level of talent that was EA Sports NHL calibre.
Seriously, the roster had enough talent that it looked like Pittsburgh was playing with an NHL 96 roster that had more than its share of force-trade pickups. Mario Lemieux was, of course, the superstar of the squad, but Ron Francis, Mark Recchi, Bryan Trottier, Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy and some kid named Jaromir Jagr filled out the roster around him. Thing is, the North Stars actually managed to put a scare into the Lemieux-led Penguins.
Through three games, Minnesota held a 2-1 series lead, but Pittsburgh turned up the heat in Game 4 with a 5-3 win and a 6-4 victory in Game 5. Then, with the Stanley Cup in the building for the first time, the Penguins absolutely embarrassed the North Stars in what has to be the most anti-climactic Stanley Cup clinching contest in league history.
The Penguins scored three in the first, three in the second and two in the third, while Tom Barrasso stopped all 39 shots he faced in the outing as Pittsburgh dismantled Minnesota in the series-deciding contest. No other Cup-deciding game has ever been as uneven, and the series ended with the Penguins owning a plus-13 goal differential.
April 27, 1965
Montreal Canadiens: 6
Chicago Black Hawks: 0
Nothing is quite as indicative of how rare a six-plus goal defeat is in the final than the fact we have to exit the post-expansion NHL to find the fourth-most recent occurrence. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of the Canadiens’ dynasty squads is on the giving end of a thorough Stanley Cup final thrashing, though.
Game 6 of the 1965 final was an all out assault on Black Hawks netminder Glenn Hall, and it speaks volumes about the power of the Canadiens squad, which had four future Hall of Famers on the attack, that Hall didn’t even play that poorly yet was still yanked after 40 minutes. Chicago was skated all over as Jean Beliveau, Dick Duff and Bobby Rousseau scored power play goals on three of the 24 shots Montreal took through the first two periods, and the game got away from the Black Hawks when the Canadiens added three more goals, including another power play tally from Beliveau, in the 6-0 defeat.
The Chicago side that included Hall, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Phil Esposito shook off the poor performance two nights later and pushed the series to seven games with a 2-1 victory, but Montreal didn’t make a single, solitary mistake in Game 7, winning 4-0 and capturing their first of what would become four Stanley Cups in five seasons.
April 5, 1955
Detroit Red Wings: 7
Montreal Canadiens: 1
The Canadiens were quite familiar with humiliation in the Stanley Cup final, however. It was only a decade earlier that they themselves were on the receiving end of one a blowout. And while Chicago may have at least had the excuse that penalty trouble is what cost them the game, Montreal wasn’t so lucky in their massive defeat.
In Game 2 of the 1955 final, the Red Wings lambasted the Canadiens 7-1 on the strength of some incredible performances from their top stars. Gordie Howe, for instance, piled up one goal and four points in the contest, while Alex Delvecchio and Marcel Pronovost each knocked home a tally. But the undisputed first star of the game was Ted Lindsay.
Lindsay scored his first goal of the outing 10 minutes into the first frame, but proceeded to net a natural hat trick over a span of 11:30 — from 8:10 to 19:37 — in the third period. Lindsay’s feat made him the second player in league history to score four goals in a Stanley Cup final contest, and he, along with Newsy Lalonde (1919) and Maurice Richard (1957), is one of only three players to achieve the mark.
Montreal bounced back from the defeat, however, winning each of the next two games in a series that eventually went seven games. In the seventh and deciding game, Detroit’s duo of Delvecchio and Howe made the difference, combining for three goals as the Red Wings won their fourth Stanley Cup in six seasons.
With regard to the games above, there’s one thing that every series has in common, and that’s that no team that has won a game by six or more goals since the 1955 Stanley Cup final has gone on to lose the series. Every single blowout winner above has captured the Stanley Cup.
However, the first two instances of one-sided final victories — Montreal’s 6-0 win over Toronto in 1947 and Toronto’s 9-3 victory over Detroit in 1942 — did not result in Stanley Cup victories for the team with the big win under their belt. In those two finals, the Maple Leafs, not their opponents, won the Stanley Cup.
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