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Leafs' 1942 comeback was ultimate playoff rally

by John Kreiser
Imagine the task that confronted the Toronto Maple Leafs after Game 3 of the 1942 Stanley Cup Final. Not only had they blown a 2-0 lead in Game 3 and lost 5-2 at Detroit, but they trailed the series 3-0 -- a deficit no team had ever overcome.

To make matters even worse, Game 4 was scheduled for the Olympia in Detroit, where the Wings enjoyed a tremendous home-ice advantage.

Not a promising situation -- so Leafs coach Hap Day decided to think outside the box.

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Day shook up his lineup for Game 4, benching first-line wingers Gordie Drillon and Bucko McDonald and inserting rookies Don Metz and Ernie Dickens; Metz took Drillon's place on the Leafs' top line, playing on a trio along with his brother Nick and No. 1 center Syl Apps, who had been held without a point in the first three games.

The Leafs played better, but things still looked pretty bleak when Detroit's Carl Liscombe put the Wings ahead 3-2 early in the third period of Game 4. But Apps tied the game at 6:15 and Don Metz added the winner minutes later for a 4-3 come-from-behind victory.


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And just like that, the Leafs were unstoppable. The series returned to Toronto, where they erupted for a 9-3 victory as Don Metz had a hat trick and added two assists.

By now, the Wings were in full retreat. Goaltender Turk Broda was the hero in Game 6 as the Leafs won 3-0 at the Olympia (Don Metz had the game-winner), sending the series back to Maple Leaf Gardens for Game 7.

With a record crowd of 16,218 packing the Gardens to the seams, Detroit’s Syd Howe opened the scoring late in the second period. Heading into the third, the Red Wings led 1-0. But Sweeney Schriner tied the game early in the period and Pete Langelle put Toronto ahead at 9:48. Schriner added a second goal, and pandemonium broke out on the ice and in the stands as the clock ticked off the final seconds of Toronto's 3-1 win.

The comeback from a 3-0 deficit has never been duplicated in the Stanley Cup Final; it's been done only twice in any playoff series -- by the New York Islanders in the 1975 quarterfinals and by Philadelphia in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.

It was a comeback that Gaye Stewart, then a rookie, still remembered with incredulity decades later.

"I still look back and think about that club winning four after losing three in the Finals," he said, "and only one word comes to mind: phenomenal."
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