The Nashville Predators suffered one of the strangest losses in Stanley Cup final history on Monday, erasing a 3-0 deficit while holding the Penguins without a shot for 37 straight minutes before allowing a back-breaking winning goal late in the third.
The way they lost was bad enough. But just losing at all is a big deal. After all, as we’re constantly told, the team that wins Game 1 in the final wins almost 80 percent the series, including each of the last five. To hear some tell it, this one’s basically over.
It’s tough times to be a Nashville fan. So as we head into Wednesday’s crucial second game, let’s offer up some hope for anyone rooting for the Predators. Here are five times in Stanley Cup final history that Game 1 didn’t end up mattering, and Game 2 turned out to be the series turning point.
1986 – Canadiens vs. Flames
After one game: Calgary went into the final sporting a distinct “team of destiny” feel. After years of living in the Oilers’ shadow, the Flames had knocked off their provincial rivals in seven games on Steve Smith’s infamous own goal. They arrived in the final holding home ice advantage, and opened the series with a convincing 5-2 win over the Canadiens.
But then: Looking to take a 2-0 series lead back to Montreal, the Flames opened the scoring in the first and added another goal just seconds into the second period. But they let the Habs off the mat, as Montreal came back to send the game to overtime. Once they got there, it didn’t take long to make some history.
Brian Skrudland’s overtime goal was the fastest in playoff history, and knotted the series at a game apiece.
The rest of the way: The Canadiens didn’t drop another game in the series, winning three straight tight ones to take the Stanley Cup in five games.
1974 – Flyers vs. Bruins
After one game: The Bruins and Flyers had been the league’s two best teams by a wide margin during the season, with Boston earning home ice throughout the playoffs by a single point thanks to a win on the season’s final day. They cashed in on that home ice advantage in Game 1, when Bobby Orr’s goal with seconds left in regulation gave them a 3-2 win and a series lead.
But then: The Bruins came out strong in Game 2, scoring twice late in the first to take a 2-0 lead to intermission. The Flyers closed the gap with a goal in the second, but couldn’t get any closer as regulation ticked away. But with the Bruins on the verge of taking a two-game lead in the series, Andre Dupont tied it with less than a minute to play, sending the game to overtime. That’s where Bobby Clarke scored what may well be the most important goal in franchise history.
The rest of the way: The Flyers would ride the momentum from Clarke’s goal to a pair of wins on home ice. The Bruins avoided elimination in Game 5 in Boston, but the Flyers closed the series with a 1-0 win back in Philadelphia, earning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup and becoming the first modern expansion team to capture a championship.
2002 – Red Wings vs. Hurricanes
After one game: Detroit came into the 2002 final as the heavy favorites, and rightfully so. The Wings roster was one of the most loaded of all-time, stocked with ten future Hall of Famers. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes seemed like they should be happy to be there, having finished the season with just 91 points. But Carolina played the Wings tough in the opener, sending the game to overtime. And in a game packed with Hall of Famers, it was the Hurricanes’ legend who came through, as Ron Francis ended the game less than a minute in to take a 1-0 series lead.
But then: Game 2 seemed to be following the same storyline, as the Hurricanes again hung tough and had the game tied late in the third. But this time, the Red Wings broke through. A late slashing penalty to Martin Gelinas put the Wings on the powerplay, and Nicklas Lidstrom cashed in with five minutes left. Kris Draper added an insurance goal seconds later, and the Wings escaped with a 3-1 win and a split series.
The rest of the way: Game 3 featured more overtime – lots more, as Detroit’s Igor Larionov ended it in the third extra period. The Hurricanes only managed a single goal the rest of the way, as the Red Wings closed out the series in five games to capture their third Cup in six years.
1985 – Oilers vs. Flyers
After one game: The 1985 final was a classic heavyweight matchup, pitting the defending champion Oilers against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Flyers. Edmonton was viewed as a favorite, making their third straight appearance in the final and boasting a roster packed with superstars like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey that had racked up 401 regular season goals. But Mike Keenan’s Flyers had home ice, and they put it to good use in the opener. After nursing a 1-0 lead through most of the game, Philadelphia broke through in the third period on their way to a 4-1 win and a series lead.
But then: The Flyers managed to contain the explosive Oilers’ offense for a second straight game, and the teams were tied 1-1 late in the second. But this time, Edmonton got the go-ahead goal from an unlikely source, as Swedish winger Willy Lidstrom scored to break the tie. The Oilers held on the rest of the way, adding an empty net goal to take a 3-1 win and even the series.
The rest of the way: After two games of tight hockey, the dam finally broke for the Oilers’ offense. They pumped 18 goals past the Flyers over the next three games, culminating in an 8-3 Game 5 blowout back in Philadelphia to ice the series. The Oilers established a dynasty, and won Cups in four out of five years (including a rematch with the Flyers in 1987). As for Willy Lidstrom, he turned out to be seeing the last playoff action of his career; he was claimed by the Penguins in the waiver draft that fall.
1993 – Canadiens vs. Kings
After one game: Wayne Gretzky and the Kings had already knocked off three Canadian teams, beating the Flames, Canucks and Maple Leafs to reach the final. They were looking to make it four against Montreal, and they got off to a good start when Wayne Gretzky and company came into the Forum and earned a 4-1 win to take an early series lead.
But then: The Kings seemed on their way to a 2-0 series lead after Pat Conacher broke a tie midway through the third. But with time running out in regulation, Jacques Demers and the Canadiens served up perhaps the most famous moment in any Cup final Game 2.
Yes, it’s the infamous Marty McSorley stick measurement. The Kings’ defenseman was busted, and Eric Desjardins tied the game on the powerplay. Desjardins struck again in overtime, tying the series and giving the Habs new life.
The rest of the way: The Canadiens took both games in Los Angeles in overtime, running their sudden death streak to ten straight wins. They closed out the series back at the Forum, capturing their 24th Stanley Cup on home ice. To this day, McSorley and the Kings think the Canadiens pulled off some behind-the-scenes subterfuge leading to the infamous penalty.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008; you may know him from Twitter as @downgoesbrown. His e-book, The 100 Greatest Players in NHL History, is available now. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
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