Skip to Main Content

Game 7s have provided some of NHL's finest moments

by John Kreiser
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are getting ready for the ultimate winner-take-all game.

The Pens and Wings will face off Friday night in the 15th Game 7 in Stanley Cup history (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). If history is any precedent, the game is likely to be a tight, low-scoring affair with the Red Wings winning -- home teams are 12-2 in Game 7s and have won the last six.

But it won't be easy. No team has ever scored more than four goals in Game 7 of a Final, and 11 of the 14 games were decided by two goals or less.

Here's a look at the first 14 Game 7s -- some of the most unforgettable games in NHL history:

June 19, 2006 -- Edmonton 1 at Carolina 3 -- Had he been a few years younger, Cam Ward probably would have been rooting for the Oilers to win Game 7 -- he grew up near Edmonton and his folks had season tickets at Rexall Place. Instead, he had to make sure they lost, and he did.

Edmonton took the series to the limit by winning Games 5 and 6. But Carolina grabbed the momentum in Game 7 quickly, getting a goal by defenseman Aaron Ward 86 seconds into the game. Another defenseman, Frantisek Kaberle, made it 2-0 with a power-play goal 4:18 into the second.

Meanwhile, the rookie goaltender kept the Oilers at bay -- no doubt frustrating a lot of people back in his home town. Fernando Pisani finally beat him 1:03 into the third period, but Ward stopped nine shots in the third period and 22 overall before Justin Williams' empty-netter sealed a 3-1 victory and the first NHL title for the franchise that entered the League as the Hartford Whalers in 1979.

Ward also went home with the Conn Smythe Trophy -- and no regrets about spoiling the spring for the team he grew up watching.

"I don't feel bad at all," he said.

June 7, 2004 -- Calgary 1 at Tampa Bay 2 -- On a team with big names like Vinny Lecavalier and Nikolai Khabibulin, it was easy to overlook Ruslan Fedotenko -- until Game 7 of the 2004 Final. In a series that saw Tampa Bay playing catch-up through six games (the Flames won the odd-numbered games, the Lightning the even-numbered ones), Fedotenko stepped up big-time.

Fedotenko opened the scoring with a power-play goal 13:31into the first period, then made it 2-0 when he scored at 14:38 of the second. Craig Conroy's goal midway through the third period cut the Bolts' lead in half, but Tampa Bay held on for the first championship in franchise history.

It was also the first Cup for Bolts captain Dave Andreychuk, who had played more regular-season games without a championship than anyone in NHL history.

"You dream about this day for a long time. It took me a while to get there," he said. "It's hard to put into words -- the years you get knocked out of the playoffs, the years you didn't make the playoffs, all the players you've played with."

Fedotenko has a chance for a second Game 7 victory in this year's Final if Pittsburgh can win at Detroit.

"It's a great feeling to be back in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final," he said. "You can't find a truer test, where you're either the winner or the loser. It's nice to be here again."

June 9, 2003 -- Anaheim 0 at New Jersey 3 -- Two years to the night after the disappointment of losing Game 7 in the Final, the Devils enjoyed the euphoria of winning one.

The teams split the first six games, with each winning three times at home. But the Mighty Ducks, making their first trip to the Final, had lost each of their three games at New Jersey by three goals -- and managed to score in just one of the three games. In contrast, two of New Jersey's three losses at Anaheim came in overtime.

Spurred on by a sellout crowd at the Meadowlands, the Devils again shut down the Ducks, limiting Anaheim to 24 shots on Martin Brodeur. Fourth-liner Mike Rupp emerged as the hero, scoring the game's first goal early in the second period and assisting on a pair by Jeff Friesen.

"I thought I might get into one game," said Rupp, who suited up only because of an injury to Joe Nieuwendyk. "I wanted to contribute any way I possibly could, maybe by winning a big draw. It didn't have to be on the score sheet."

Brodeur finished with three shutouts in the Final -- but Giguere, whose goaltending had carried the Mike Babcock-coached Mighty Ducks within 60 minutes of the title, was awarded the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP.

June 9, 2001 -- New Jersey 1 at Colorado 3 -- Five nights before Game 7, the fans who left the Pepsi Center after New Jersey's 4-1 win in Game 5 had to be thinking they'd seen their last hockey of the season. But they were wrong. Patrick Roy blanked the defending champion Devils 4-0 in Game 6 at the Meadowlands, sending everyone back to Colorado for a deciding game.

Roy was superb in Game 7, stopping 25 shots. But the read hero was center Alex Tanguay, who opened the scoring 7:58 into the game, made it 2-0 at 4:57 of the second period and set up Joe Sakic's power-play goal at 6:16 for a 3-0 lead. Petr Sykora made it 3-1 at 9:33, but the Devils didn't score again.

The happiest member of the Avalanche was defenseman Ray Bourque, who had waited more than 20 years to get the chance to sip champagne from the Stanley Cup. He capped his Hall of Fame career with a championship.

But not everyone was thrilled.

"He had a great career -- he's a Hall of Famer and maybe the best defenseman that ever played," Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko. "If I wasn't in [the Final], I'd have been happy for him. But it's tough to be happy for him when you're on the other side."

June 14, 1994 -- Vancouver 2 at New York Rangers 3 -- Under new coach Mike Keenan, the Rangers pushed to finish first with the idea that playing Game 7 in a playoff series at home was a much better idea than having to go on the road. Keenan was right.

The Rangers won Games 2, 3 and 4 after dropping the opener, only to see the Canucks capture the next two games. For the first time, Game 7 of the Final came to Madison Square Garden -- just where the Rangers wanted it.

"Playing before that home crowd was huge," then-GM Neil Smith said.

The Rangers gave the Garden crowd lots to cheer about, grabbing a 2-0 lead after one period on goals by Brian Leetch and Adam Graves, then countering a goal by Trevor Linden with one by Mark Messier for a 3-1 lead after two.

Then came the longest 20 minutes in Rangers history. Linden scored again early in the third period to cut the lead to one goal. For what seemed like an eternity, the Rangers had to withstand wave after wave of black-shirted Canucks, desperately seeking the tying goal.

But they didn't get it. With Mike Richter in goal, the Rangers held on for a 3-2 win and their first championship in 54 years -- ending the cries of "1940" that had taunted them for years.

May 31, 1987 -- Philadelphia 1 at Edmonton 3 -- The Oilers had seen their bid for a third consecutive championship shattered by a fluke loss at home in Game 7 of the 1986 Smythe Division Finals. After getting back to the Stanley Cup Final the next year, they weren't about to disappoint their fans again.

The Flyers looked like they would go quietly after losing three of the first four games, but won Game 5 in Edmonton and Game 6 at the Spectrum to push the Final to the limit for the first time in 16 years.

The nervous crowd at the Northlands Coliseum got even more worried when Murray Craven scored a power-play goal just 1:41 into the game. But Mark Messier tied the game at 7:45, and the Oilers took control. Jari Kurri beat Ron Hextall 14:59 into the second period to put Edmonton ahead to stay, and Glenn Anderson's blast with 2:24 remaining in regulation sealed the Oilers' third Cup in four years.

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final GearThe championship came despite the heroics of Hextall, who made 40 saves in Game 7 and won the Conn Smythe Trophy despite the loss.

"It was frustrating to have come so far and worked so hard and accomplished nothing," he said. "I look back at it now and realize that we accomplished a lot. But it was an empty feeling. I fretted about [that game] for months."

May 18, 1971 -- Montreal 3 at Chicago 2 -- Montreal 3 at Chicago 2 -- Just as they had done six years earlier, the Canadiens and Blackhawks split the first six games of the Final, with each team winning its three home games. This time, however, Game 7 was at Chicago Stadium, where the Blackhawks enjoyed one of the most intimidating home-ice advantages in the NHL.

A national TV audience saw the Hawks appear to have the game well in hand midway through the second period, leading 2-0 on goals by Dennis Hull and Kevin O'Shea. But an 80-footer by Jacques Lemaire eluded Tony Esposito, giving the Canadiens life.

"After that, the momentum switched to our side," defenseman Jacque Laperriere said.

Henri Richard tied it late in the second period, then drove past Keith Magnuson and beat Esposito 2:34 into the third for a 3-2 lead.

Rookie goaltender Ken Dryden did the rest, making a tremendous stop on Jim Pappin late in the game to preserve the victory -- sending future Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau into retirement with yet another championship.

The Canadiens became only the second team to win Game 7 of the Final on the road and the only team to win a seventh game on the road after the home team had won the first six games -- the same circumstances Pittsburgh faces on Friday night.

May 1, 1965 -- Chicago 0 at Montreal 4 -- Gump Worsley, a Montreal native, never got a sniff of the Stanley Cup Final while spending nearly a decade with the New York Rangers. He finally got a chance in 1965, two years after being shipped to the Canadiens -- and made the most of it, with a little help from his friends.

The Hawks and Canadiens split the first six games, with each team winning three times at home. Game 7 was back at the Forum, and the Canadiens wasted little time jumping on the Hawks. Jean Beliveau electrified the crowd by scoring just 14 seconds into the game, triggering a four-goal first period that gave Worsley all the support he needed. The Gumper had to make just 20 saves.

The championship was the 12th in Canadiens' history and the first of four in five years with Worsley carrying the load in net. Beliveau, who had 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in the seven-game series, was the first winner of the new Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the playoffs.

April 25, 1964 -- Detroit 0 at Toronto 4 -- The 1964 Final was the first in nine years to go the distance, and it got that far only because of one of hockey's legendary tales of heroism. Leafs defenseman Bob Baum, who injured his ankle blocking a shot in the third period of Game 6 and wasn't expected to return, came back for overtime and scored the game-winner.

It was the fifth time in six games that the outcome was decided by one goal -- Game 4 was a 4-2 Leafs win.

The euphoria of that victory carried the two-time defending champion Leafs back to Toronto and to an easy victory in Game 7. Andy Bathgate's goal 3:04 into the game gave Toronto a quick lead. Dave Keon, Red Kelly and George Armstrong broke the game open with third-period goals and Johnny Bower did the rest, making 33 saves and shutting down the Wings to give the Leafs their third consecutive championship in something of an anticlimax.

Not until after the series was over was it revealed that Baum was played on a tightly wrapped, but definitely fractured, ankle.

Detroit Red Wings Western Conference Champs GearApril 14, 1955 -- Montreal 1 at Detroit 3 -- Though the Canadiens were without their biggest star, Maurice Richard, who had been suspended for the playoffs due to a late-season incident, Montreal reached the Final for the fifth consecutive season. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they again faced the Red Wings, who had no intention of giving up the Cup they won the previous spring.

Equally unfortunate for the Canadiens was the fact that Game 7 was played at the Olympia -- the first six games of the Final had all been won by the home team, and the deciding game turned out to be no different.

The Wings hadn't lost at home in nearly four months, and they kept that record intact with a workmanlike 3-1 victory. Alex Delvecchio scored twice for the Wings, and Gordie Howe's goal with 11 seconds left in the second period proved to be the game-winner.

The Cup capped a streak in which Detroit won four times in six years. Little did the Wings or their fans know that Lord Stanley wouldn't make a return trip to the Motor City for more than 40 years.

April 16, 1954 -- Montreal 1 at Detroit 2 (OT) -- Tony Leswick had been on the wrong side of a Game 7 overtime loss in 1950 with the Rangers. Four years and a trade to the Red Wings later, he came up a winner.

Montreal, the defending champion, had rallied from a 3-1 series deficit by winning Game 5 at Detroit and Game 6 at the Forum to force a Game 7. The Canadiens grabbed the early lead on a goal by Floyd Curry, but Red Kelly tied it for the Red Wings and regulation time ended with the score tied 1-1.

That's when Leswick -- and a little bit of luck -- came through for the Red Wings.

Leswick, known more as a checker than a scorer, flipped the puck into the Montreal zone. All-Star defenseman Doug Harvey reached out with his gloved hand to knock the puck out of the air -- but instead, he tipped it over goalie Gerry McNeil's shoulder at 4:29.

Just like that, the Wings were champions.

"I flipped it nice and high and turned to get off the ice," Leswick recounted nearly a half-century later. "The next thing I knew, everyone was celebrating. It had gone in.

"We started celebrating, and the crowd at the old Olympia went wild."

April 23, 1950 -- New York Rangers 3 at Detroit 4 (2 OT) -- But for a bit of bad luck, the Rangers' 54-year Cup drought might have been a lot shorter.

The fourth-place Rangers shocked Montreal to advance to their first Final since 1940. The first-place Red Wings were expected to make short work of the Blueshirts, especially because New York had to play all seven games away from Madison Square Garden, where the circus turned the Rangers into road warriors every spring. Games 2 and 3 were played in Toronto, the rest in Detroit.

But with center Don Raleigh scoring back-to-back overtime goals, the Rangers took a 3-2 series lead into Game 6. The Wings rallied for a 5-4 win, setting up the third Game 7 in Final history.

Once again, the Rangers got the jump on the Wings, as Allan Stanley and Tony Leswick scored first-period power-play goals to give New York a 2-0 lead. Sid Abel and Pete Babando scored power-play goals 21 seconds apart to tie the game early in the second period. Buddy O'Connor put the Rangers back in front at 11:42, but Jimmy McFadden tied the game again by beating Chuck Rayner at 15:57.

After a scoreless third period, the teams began the first Game 7 overtime in Final history. Rayner survived a barrage by the Wings in the first overtime, and Raleigh missed a chance to be the hero early in the second.

"I had a couple of chances, especially in the second overtime," he remembered more than 50 years later. "I think one of them went over my stick, and another hit the post or the crossbar."

The end came 8:31 into the second overtime when George Gee won a faceoff back to Babando, who whipped a shot past Rayner for the winner.

"To have the Stanley Cup that close and not get it was terrible," Raleigh said. "It was heartbreaking. The funny thing was that Babando later played with me on the Rangers."

That came in 1952-53 -- and by then, the Rangers were well into their long Cup-less streak, while the Wings were enjoying a stretch in which they won four Cups in six years.

Pittsburgh Penguins Eastern Conference Champs GearApril 22, 1945 -- Toronto 2 at Detroit 1 -- The second Game 7 in the history of the Stanley Cup Final had the same participants, but a complete role reversal. This time, the Leafs were hanging on after winning the first three games, all via shutout, only to see the Wings take the next three -- including a pair in Toronto.

Game 7 was back at the Olympia, where it looked like the Wings would avenge their collapse of three years earlier. But it was not to be.

The teams were locked in a 1-1 tie with less than half the third period remaining before veteran defenseman Babe Pratt scored a power-play goal with 7:46 remaining, giving the Leafs a 2-1 lead. Goaltender Frank McCool made it stand up, and the Leafs were champions again -- beginning a run of four Cups in five years.

April 18, 1942 -- Detroit 1 at Toronto 3 -- The first Game 7 in Final history (the best-of-7 format was only three years old) is still one of the most famous -- it capped the greatest comeback in sports history.

Detroit won the first three games of the Final and appeared to be on its way to a sweep. Instead, the Maple Leafs rallied for a 4-3 win at Detroit in Game 4, blew out the Wings 9-3 in Game 5 and won 3-0 at Detroit in Game 6, setting up the first Game 7 with the Stanley Cup at stake.

But the record crowd of 16,218 at Maple Leafs Gardens was worried entering the final period. The Wings, showing no effects from three-straight losses, led 1-0 after 40 minutes. The Leafs got a break when referee Bill Chadwick penalized Jimmy Orlando, giving Toronto a power play, and Sweeney Schriner deflected the puck past Johnny Mowers to tie the score and trigger an eruption at the usually staid Gardens.

Toronto kept pushing and went ahead when Pete Langelle knocked home a loose puck at 9:48. Schriner scored again with less than five minutes remaining, and the Leafs had a 3-1 victory -- capping the greatest comeback of all time.

Contact John Kreiser at

View More