Nothing in sports can match the drama of a Stanley Cup Final overtime game. The desperation of both teams, the buzz in the crowd at each shot and save, the sheer euphoria of the winners – and the dejection of the losers – are like nothing in any other sport.
But even within the specialness that is overtime in the Final, some games stand out more than others – whether it's for the dramatic ending, the stakes involved or some combination of the two. Here are seven that stand out above the rest as we wait to see what the Kings and Devils have in store:
7. Penguins turn party poopers
The 20,066 fans who packed Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on June 2, 2008, were ready to celebrate. The Red Wings entered the night with a 3-1 series lead on Pittsburgh, and after a slow start in Game 5, they had overcome a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead with time running out.
The sound was deafening as P.A. announcer Bud Lynch announced that there was one minute remaining in the third period, with the packed house preparing to celebrate the Wings' fourth title since 1997.
But someone forgot to tell the Penguins that their role was supposed to be that of the plucky loser. With goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Maxime Talbot quieted the building by scoring with 35 seconds remaining.
The teams battled through a pair of scoreless periods that were dominated by Detroit before Jiri Hudler of the Wings received a four-minute high-sticking penalty for cutting Pens' defenseman Rob Scuderi. Just 36 seconds later, Petr Sykora officially spoiled the party by beating Chris Osgood for a 4-3 win that sent the series back to Pittsburgh.
The game was the fifth-longest in Stanley Cup Final history, with overtime lasting 49:57 before Sykora's game-winner.
Pens coach Michel Therrien said he never doubted his team for a second.
"I know my team," Therrien said. "I know the character of those guys. And we're well prepared. We had a really good start."
To say the outcome was frustrating for the Wings was putting it mildly.
"You were that close, and then, oh, tough," said coach Mike Babcock, whose team recovered to beat the Penguins 3-2 in Game 6 at Pittsburgh to win the Cup. "And I think it's natural to feel bad for us for a bit, and feel bad for yourself. But it's the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be a battle, and obviously we're in one."
6. Forgotten man gives Oilers the win
The Edmonton Oilers had been heavy favorites when they faced Boston in the 1988 Final. Two years later, the roles were reversed, with the Bruins favored to beat the Wayne Gretzky-less Oilers and win their first championship in 18 years.
The Bruins had finished first in the overall standings, meaning that the series would open in the tiny Boston Garden, where the Bruins could use the physical style they preferred against the speedier Oilers. Boston had two of the NHL's elite players in defenseman Ray Bourque and forward Cam Neely, as well as former Oiler Andy Moog in goal.
The Oiler jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 1, but Bourque scored twice in the third period and sent the game into overtime by beating former Bruin Bill Ranford with 1:29 left in regulation.
As the teams battled through a pair of scoreless overtime periods, forward Petr Klima -- a solid scorer who was regarded as a defensive liability by coach John Muckler -- found himself nailed to Edmonton bench, watching a goaltending duel between Ranford and Moog. But as the game moved deep into a third overtime, Muckler decided he needed some fresh legs, so he tapped Klima and sent him out for a shift -- and was rewarded when the Czech forward slipped the puck through Moog's legs at 15:13 of the third extra period to give the Oilers a stunning 3-2 win.
Klima, by his own estimation, had played maybe two shifts in the 55-plus minutes of overtime.
"The goalie's tired," Klima said. "I'm not tired, because I'm not playing much."
The Bruins never recovered from the loss, and the Oilers wound up winning the series in five games for their fifth Stanley Cup in seven years.
The 55:13 of extra time is still the most in the history of the Final.
5. May 10, 1970: Bobby Orr flies to victory
The fans who streamed into the Boston Garden for Game 4 of the 1970 Final were ready to celebrate. Their team was one win away from its first Stanley Cup in 31 years, and the St. Louis Blues hadn't put up much resistance in the first three games. Boston won 6-1 and 6-2 at St. Louis, then beat the Blues 4-1 in Game 3 back in Boston.
But with a national TV audience looking on, the Blues had no intention of going quietly in Game 4. They battled the Bruins evenly though two periods and actually took the lead on Larry Keenan's power-play goal early in the third. Boston needed Johnny Bucyk's goal with 6:32 left in regulation to force overtime.
Happily for the 14,835 on hand in the steamy Garden, Bobby Orr made sure they didn't have to wait long to celebrate. Just 40 seconds into OT, Orr took Derek Sanderson's passout and flicked a shot past Glenn Hall an instant before he was sent flying by Noel Picard.
"I was flying through the air – I thought I was going to leave the rink," Orr said years later, "when the puck hit behind Hall. We'd won the Stanley Cup."
The photo of a jubilant Orr flying through the air after his Cup-winning goal is one of the most famous in sports history. Just to make sure, there's also a statue outside the TD Garden, unveiled in 2010 on the 40th anniversary of one of the most iconic goals ever scored.
4: The Drought Ends; June 9, 2010
The Chicago Blackhawks entered the 2010 playoffs with the dubious honor of having the longest active Stanley Cup drought – it had been 49 long years since Hawks fans had celebrated a championship.
The Blackhawks arrived in Philadelphia for Game 6 of the Final that looked like a series straight out of the 1980s – goals, goals and more goals, an average of eight per game. The Hawks took a 3-2 lead in the series by winning a 7-4 track meet at home in Game 5, and looked like they might be about to end their drought when they took a 3-2 lead into the final minutes of regulation of another run-and-gun game, only to have Scott Hartnell force overtime when he beat Antti Niemi with 3:59 left in regulation.
But the Hawks refused to be discouraged. Just over four minutes into overtime, Patrick Kane raced into the lower left circle and took a shot that went through goaltender Michael Leighton's legs. Kane raced back toward his own zone, celebrating wildly, even as play continued. After a play stoppage, a video replay showed what Kane had known all along – the puck had zipped in and out of the net, and the Hawks' title drought was history.
"I think a couple of guys on the ice may have known it was in, but as far as the reaction from the crowd, there might have been only a few people who knew it was in," Kane later told NHL.com. "I think that's why I celebrated as hard as I did right after, went as crazy as I did, because there was really no reaction toward it -- the place was dead and I don't think anyone knew what was going on except for me and a couple of players who were chasing me down the ice."
3: The Dynasty Begins; May 24, 1980
Had the New York Islanders won the Stanley Cup in 1979, it wouldn't have been a huge surprise – after all, the Isles had dethroned Montreal as the regular-season champion. But they were upset in the semis by the archrival Rangers, and the hangover lasted well into the 1979-80 season.
Not until March, when the arrival of Olympic hero Ken Morrow and a trade that brought Butch Goring from Los Angeles filled the last two holes, did the Islanders get in gear. They went 8-0-4 in their last 12 games, then bounced L.A., Boston and Buffalo to earn their first-ever trip to the Final. Their opponent was the division-rival Philadelphia Flyers, who tore up the League during the regular season, finishing first with 116 points.
But the Isles stole the home-ice edge with a 3-2 OT win in Game 1 and arrived at the Nassau Coliseum for their Saturday afternoon game on May 24 with a chance to bring the Stanley Cup to the New York area for the first time in 40 years.
The Islanders led 4-2 after two periods, but Philadelphia scored twice against the nervous home side to force overtime. Billy Smith kept the Flyers at bay until a turnover in the neutral zone set up a quick 2-on-1 break. John Tonelli's perfect pass found Bob Nystrom's stick for a backhand chip over Pete Peeters -- and the Isles, in only their eighth NHL season, were champions.
"Winning the Cup is a feeling that you really can't explain," said coach Al Arbour, who had won three as a player. "It may sink in in a few days."
The Islanders must have liked the feeling – Nystrom's goal began a dynasty that saw New York become the only U.S.-based team to win four straight Cups; the Isles also set a record that still stands by winning 19 consecutive playoff series.
2: Lucky Leswick; April 16, 1954
The Detroit Red Wings were in their glory years in the early 1950s – they won the Stanley Cup in 1950 and '52, and were poised to do it again in 1954 when they grabbed a 3-1 lead against Montreal in the Final. But the Canadiens blanked the Wings 1-0 in Detroit in Game 5 and rolled to a 4-1 home win in Game 6, sending the Final to a seventh game back at the Olympia.
Floyd Curry's first-period goal put Montreal ahead, but Red Kelly scored a power-play goal 1:17 into the second for Detroit to tie the game at 1-1. With the 15,792 fans roaring on every rush, Montreal's Gerry McNeil and Detroit’s Terry Sawchuk then put on a goaltending duel that sent the teams to overtime all even.
It was only the second time in Stanley Cup history that Game 7 of the Final had gone to overtime. Detroit forward Tony Leswick remembered the first one all too painfully – he was on the New York Rangers team that lost to the Wings four years earlier.
Leswick, a scorer in New York, was a checker in Detroit and trying to get off the ice when he flipped a high dump-in toward the net from center ice.
"The next thing I know, everyone's celebrating," Leswick remembered decades later. "It had gone in."
Unbeknownst to Leswick, Montreal defenseman Doug Harvey tried to glove the puck and put in on the ice; instead, he deflected it past McNeil for one of the oddest – but most important – goals in Stanley Cup history. Fifty-eight years later, there still hasn't been an overtime in Game 7 of the Final.
1: Sneaky Pete; April 23, 1950
No one gave the New York Rangers much of a chance in the 1950 Stanley Cup Final. Not only were the fourth-place Rangers facing the first-place Red Wings, they wouldn't even get to play a home game – Madison Square Garden had its annual spring visit from the circus, and the clowns and elephants took precedence over the Rangers and Red Wings.
After losing Game 1 in Detroit, the Rangers did get to play Games 2 and 3 as "home" games in Toronto before the rest of the series returned to the Olympia. But the Rangers stunned the sellout crowd in Detroit by winning Games 4 and 5 in overtime on goals by Don "Bones" Raleigh. The Wings rallied to win Game 6, then overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to send Game 7 into overtime – the first time that had happened in the Final.
New York's Chuck Rayner and Detroit's Harry Lumley were perfect through one overtime and into the second – though Raleigh had a couple of opportunities to be the hero.
"I had a couple of chances, especially in the second overtime," he remembered decades later. "I think one went over my stick, and I believe I hit the post or crossbar on the other. To have the Stanley Cup that close and not get it was terrible."
The end was as stunning as it was painful for the Rangers. George Gee won a faceoff to journeyman forward Pete Babando, who whipped a backhander past Rayner 8:31 into the second OT for a 4-3 win and the Cup.
"I was playing with Jacques Couture and George Gee, who took the faceoff," he told The Hockey News 50 years later. "Usually, George had me stand behind him. But this time, he moved me over to the right and told me he was going to pull it that way. I had to take one stride and get it on my backhand. I let the shot go and it went in."
In the ultimate irony, Babando didn't play another game for the Wings – he was dealt to Chicago that summer and finished his NHL career as a Ranger three years later.
"It was heartbreaking," Raleigh said. "To be that close and not get it really hurt."
More than six decades later, it's still the longest Game 7 in the history of the Stanley Cup Final.