Playoff upsets

They call it the ‘Miracle on Manchester,’ an upset so incomprehensible it will surely never be repeated.

In the spring of 1982, Los Angeles entered into its first round playoff matchup as a huge underdog against powerhouse Edmonton. The Kings (24-41-15, 63 points) had 48 fewer points in the regular season than the Oilers (48-17-15, 111 points) and Edmonton featured the NHL scoring leader in a young Wayne Gretzky, who had eviscerated the league for 92 goals and 212 points that year.

But the plucky Kings came to play, which was no more evident than in Game 3, when the purple-and-gold erased a 5-0 third period deficit to win 6-5 in overtime and, two games later, captured the best-of-five series.

Similar upsets, if slightly less dramatic, can be found throughout the game’s history, which is why it really isn’t over until it’s over. Just ask the 1942 Red Wings or 1975 Penguins, who built 3-0 series leads over the Leafs and Islanders, respectively, before losing in seven games.

This year, fans in Anaheim were treated to their eighth-seeded Ducks upsetting the perennial post-season posers from San Jose, the 2009 Presidents’ Cup winners. Although it was a No. 8 beating a No. 1, that result doesn’t quite make this list because of Anaheim’s top-end talent and recent playoff successes, along with San Jose’s recent playoff flops.

10. Toronto over Detroit 4-3, 1942 Stanley Cup final
Leafs rally from 3-0 series deficit for all-time playoff comeback.

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9. NY Islanders over Pittsburgh 4-3, 1993 quarterfinal
Unlikely Isles, with 32 fewer points in regular season, end Pens’ bid for third straight Cup.

8. NY Rangers over St. Louis 4-2, 1981 quarterfinal
Thirty-three-point difference in regular season.

7. Anaheim over Detroit 4-0, 2003 first round
No. 7 seed sweeps No. 2 seed and defending champs.

6. Montreal over Boston 4-2, 2002 first round
No. 8 seed beats No. 1 seed.

5. San Jose over Detroit 4-3, 1994 first round
No. 8-seeded Sharks, in first playoff appearance, beat No. 1-ranked Red Wings.

4. Edmonton over Montreal 3-0, 1981 first round
No. 14 seed sweeps No. 3 seed.

3. Minnesota over Chicago 4-2, 1991 first round
Thirty-eight-point difference in regular season.

2. Montreal over Detroit 4-2, 1951 semifinal
Thirty-six-point difference in regular season.

1. Los Angeles over Edmonton 3-2, 1982 first round
Forty-eight-point difference in regular season – gives rise to ‘Miracle on Manchester’ moniker.

This top 10 was adapted from THN’s Ultimate Book of Hockey Lists edited by Sam McCaig and available through or at a bookstore near you.

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