When the New York Islanders blew a three-goal lead and lost to the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night, they accomplished a dubious feat that had happened only five previous times in NHL history and hasn’t occurred in more than a decade.
The Islanders 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild marked the second consecutive game in which they had blown a three-goal lead. Just for good measure, they actually twice blew a three-goal lead against the Wild. That game came just three days after they coughed up a three-spot in a 6-4 loss on home ice to the St. Louis Blues, the game that gave Martin Brodeur his first victory in a Blues uniform.
And according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the sixth time in the league’s almost-100-year history that a team has been that inept at holding that big a lead in two consecutive games. According to Elias, the only times it has happened prior to this season was between 1983 and 1993, which represented one of the most offensively explosive periods in NHL history.
Here are the teams that have blown three-goal leads and how they fared that season:
1983-84 Hartford Whalers: In their final two games of the season, the Whalers blew three-goal leads April 2 and 3 in a home-and-home series against the Quebec Nordiques. How they fared: Those two losses cemented the Whalers in 20th place in the 21-team league, giving them the second pick overall, which they used to select Sylvain Turgeon ahead of Pat LaFontaine, Steve Yzerman and Tom Barrasso.
1983-84 Winnipeg Jets: The Jets gagged up three-goal margins in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres Nov. 16 and an 8-7 overtime loss to the Minnesota North Stars three days later. How they fared: The Jets finished fourth in the Smythe Division and were defeated in three straight games by the Edmonton Oilers. Shortly after the back-to-back losses, coach Tom Watt was fired.
1985-86 Toronto Maple Leafs: This team is the only one in NHL history to have performed the feat both times on home ice. The first loss, 4-3 to Winnipeg, came Oct. 19, and was followed up by a 5-4 defeat to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins Oct. 23. How they fared: Dan Maloney's team finished fourth in the Norris. They swept the Chicago Blackhawks in three games and were then eliminated in seven games against the St. Louis Blues.
1987-88 Edmonton Oilers: The high-flying Oilers were spotted a 3-0 lead before losing 4-3 in overtime to the Jets Nov. 22, then dropped an 8-7 overtime decision to the New Jersey Devils three nights later. How they fared: It obviously didn’t hurt them too much, since the Oilers went on to win the fourth of their five Stanley Cups in Wayne Gretzky’s final season as an Oiler.
1992-93 Edmonton Oilers: After blowing a three-goal lead and losing 5-4 in overtime in Vancouver April 7, the Oilers limped home and did the same thing four nights later against Winnipeg. How they fared: This was the first season in the decline of the Oiler dynasty. It was their first-ever NHL season out of the playoffs and the first of four straight seasons they’d miss the post-season.