There are few things in sports that can beat a multiple overtime Stanley Cup Finals game. Wednesday night showed once again why this is so with the Chicago Blackhawks coming back from 3-1 down against the Boston Bruins to force overtime and then win 4-3 in the third overtime period of game one. When all was said and done, over 100 combined shots and over 110 minutes of hockey had been played.
There is just something about sudden death in hockey that can bring out some of the most suspenseful moments in all of sports. And that gut-wrenching (in a good way) feeling that goes with viewing such games only grows when sudden death is deciding any game in the championship series.
There have been plenty of great playoff hockey games that have gone to multiple overtimes in the past. Immediately two games come to mind: the Philadelphia Flyers‘ win over the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2000 playoffs and the Dallas Stars‘ win over the Anaheim Ducks in the 2003 playoffs; both games went into the fifth overtime. In both cases, the teams that my brother (Ducks) and I (Penguins) were cheering for were defeated. That alone will make a moment such as the end of a five overtime playoff game linger for years.
Even last year the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers had a marathon playoff game that went multiple overtimes and lasted long into the night.
However, there are no multiple overtime games like those in the Stanley Cup. Just in my lifetime, there have been some of the most suspenseful and best Cup-clinching games ever that have been decided long into overtime.
The Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup in 1996 with a 1-0 win that completed a sweep of the Florida Panthers. That lone goal came courtesy of Uwe Krupp four and a half minutes into the third overtime of an epic battle of the goalies between Patrick Roy and John Vanbiesbrouck.
The 2000 Stanley Cup Finals ended in the second overtime of game six with Jason Arnett winning the cup for the New Jersey Devils with a goal on the great Ed Belfour.
The Penguins stayed alive in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings when Petr Sykora became a prophet for one night. Sykora won the game for the Penguins in the third overtime, echoing a prediction he made to Pierre Maguire of NBC earlier that he would score the game-winning goal in overtime.
And of course, game six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. In one of the great Stanley Cup Finals games of all time, Brett Hull won the cup for the Dallas Stars with one of the most controversial goals in Stanley Cup history, scoring it just over five minutes into the third overtime.
The term “no goal” will always be associated with Hull’s goal in the minds of Sabres fans. The controversy stems from the fact that Hull’s skate was inside the crease on the scoring play, but the puck wasn’t when Hull shot it. Hull’s goal ended up being the catalyst to the “skate in the crease” rule being eliminated from the NHL.
Game one on Wednesday night will join games like the ones mentioned above in the exclusive group of Stanley Cup classic games. Game one was a good, hard-hitting game from both sides that featured the usual stupendous play from goalies that help create long overtime games.
What makes this game distinct among the already confirmed classics is how the Blackhawks made their two-goal comeback in the final period of regulation to extend a game they were getting beaten in for the majority. The Blackhawks made this game a classic instead of a game one shocking upset. Either would have been okay with hockey fans, but history remembers the games that are produced by comebacks more fondly than most.