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Duffer's Digest: Comebacks have made a comeback

by Brian Duff
It first happened in the sixth game of this regular season.

It has happened 34 times since.

If the trend continues, it will have happened 264 times by the end of the regular season.

Leads of two goals or more are evaporating at a faster rate than most of our financial portfolios in 2008-09.

It started with the all-world Red Wings frivoling away 3-1, and 2-0 leads to go oh-for-Stockholm against the St. Louis Blues.

And, true to form in this copy-cat world of pro sports, 29 other NHL clubs have been trying to follow Detroit's lead (or blown leads) ever since.

Actually that's not entirely true.

Eleven teams have been immune so far to this at-times-deadly, cough-up fit. And for another nine, it's been a case -- so far -- of one-and-done.

But then there were still 10.

Ten NHL teams have found a way to squander 26 leads ranging from two, to three, to four and up to five goals!

Remember Calgary's Monday Meltdown on Madison? A 5-0 first-period lead for the visitors ended in a stunning 6-5 overtime win for Chicago. Given that performance, it shouldn't surprise you that the Flames lead the League with four largely charitable efforts.

Aside from the historic collapse at the UC (as in -- did U C that?), the Flames have managed to win two of their other three hiccups, surviving a pair of blown 3-1 leads -- against Edmonton and Columbus. But Wednesday, it was bye-bye to a 2-0 lead against the Avs, and for the first time when leading by at least that margin, they came away without even a single point, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Avalanche.

Also on Wednesday, the Predators officially became the League's biggest tease, tossing away another two-goal advantage, only to rebound for a 4-3 road win at Minnesota. Nashville is a perfect 3-0 when giving up a multi-goal lead. Does that make any sense?

The Senators are 2-0-1 when blowing two-goal leads, but that shootout loss on Oct. 24 against the Bruins may have planted a seed of doubt for down the road. Allowing a division rival like Boston to score twice in the final minute and a half -- in your building -- and then failing to respond in overtime and the shootout may just leave an irreparable scar on the Sens' season.

The scene on Long Island was similar to that of Canada's Capital on Saturday, with New York coughing up a 2-0 third-period advantage before falling to the Capitals, 3-2, in overtime. The Isles are 1-0-2 when up by two-or-more. Their most painful learning experience so far? A 3-0 third-period lead in Boston that turned into a 4-3 shootout defeat.

Didn't think we forgot about Detroit, did you? The Wings are 0-2-1 when giving up a two-goal cushion, making them the only team with three or more blown leads that hasn't found a way to dig in and secure a win.

The antithesis of the Wings would be the Kings and their ultimate answer to the Sharks on Oct. 6. After building a 4-0 edge at Staples Center, LA watched in disbelief as San Jose scored four power-play goals, including two in the third period, to tie the game. But only 26 seconds later Teddy Purcell scored from the corner on Thomas Greiss, and the embarrassment of the previous 20 minutes was all but forgotten. The Kings went on to win, 6-4.

Perhaps there's a sign in the Kings' Dressing room that says "Winning means Entertaining."

Sixteen days later, a 4-1 lead in the third period against Dallas, also at Staples, turned into a 5-4 overtime win for the Kings thanks to Michal Handzus.

It leaves you wondering ... who's writing these scripts?

Here's a quick overview of the repeat offenders, and their records when guilty of surrendering leads of two goals or more:

Team Record
Nashville 3-0-0
Ottawa 2-0-1
Los Angeles 2-0-0
NY Islanders 1-0-2
Washington 1-0-1
Calgary 2-1-1
Columbus 1-1-0
Rangers 0-1-1
Philadelphia 0-1-1
Detroit 0-2-1

The top seven prove a point that we have often felt is the case. Even when it seems like the sky is falling, a little bit of character can ultimately save a lot of face. So what if you just gave up two or three goals in a row? Go get the next one and regain control.

Overall, teams that have buckled with big leads are 15-9-11. That record is 3-1-3 when the lead was three goals or more. That's small consolation for the coaches (and, in some cases, the home fans) to be sure, but consolation, nonetheless.

But, maybe, I'm looking at this all wrong. What about the teams that are proving to be kings of the comeback?

What we're saying here is that in the first month of the season, a month that is not yet complete, teams have rallied from deficits of two goals or more to win 20 games!

The most emphatic triumph was Chicago against Calgary, but the most frequent multi-goal comebacks have been completed by Colorado, who has three (can they do anything wrong?) followed by Boston, St. Louis, San Jose and Washington -- all with two.

And what you need to keep in mind right now is that better than one out of every five games is producing this kind of drama.

Is this the year comebacks become the norm? I believe we're trending in that direction.

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