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Before the “Stunner at Staples”

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
Tuesday night’s 6-5 Sharks overtime win over Los Angeles in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals will receive many monikers. Stunner at Staples. Shootout at Staples. Or as a Southern California columnist has called it, Fiasco at Figueroa (named after one of Staples Center’s cross streets).

Give the game any name you want. The bottom line: last night’s game is one of four playoff games where a team has rallied from four goals down to win.

What were the other three? Here’s a capsule look. Oddly enough, one of these games involves the Los Angeles Kings. If you’re looking for more quirks, these games featured former California Golden Seals players and put the spotlight on a few future members of the San Jose Sharks.

Game No. 1: April 8, 1971
Montreal 7, Boston 5
Game 2, Eastern Division Quarterfinals

One of the greatest rivalries in sports involves these two Original Six teams. And this year, the clubs are facing each other again in the conference quarterfinals.

But back in 1971, things were simple in the National Hockey League. There were two divisions of seven teams each. The top four in each qualified for the playoffs. Montreal, who would go on to win their 16th Stanley Cup, finished third in the Eastern Division with a record of 42-23-13. Boston, the previous year’s Stanley Cup Champions, had the League’s best regular season record at 57-14-7.

The Bruins won Game 1 at the old Boston Garden, 3-1. But Game 2 became the turning point of the series.

Boston, which featured the likes of Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, had built up a 5-1 lead thanks to goals by Orr, Fred Stanfield, Ted Green, John McKenzie, future Sharks Assistant Coach Wayne Cashman and Derek Sanderson.

Montreal Canadiens team captain Jean Beliveau holds the Stanley Cup trophy after his team's 3-2 victory over the Chicago Black Hawks in the NHL playoff game in Chicago, Ill., May 18, 1971. (AP Photo)
However, those “Hockey Gods” seemed to be smiling on Club de hockey Canadien. Towards the end of the second period, Montreal’s Henri Richard’s goal cut Boston’s lead to 5-2. Jean Beliveau, who would retire after the playoffs, got the first of Montreal’s five, third period goals early on the power play. One of the assists went to John Ferguson, who would eventually work for the Sharks as a senior professional scout.

Beliveau scored again nearly two minutes later, with Ferguson getting one of the helpers. Now the score was 5-4, Boston. The Habs tied it at 9:59 on Jacqures Lemaire’s unassisted goal. Ferguson put the Canadiens ahead for good at 15:23 as he buried a pass from Beliveau in the slot. Frank Mahovlich gave Montreal the 7-5 win when he took a pass from Phil Roberto in the Montreal end, streaked down the wing and blasted a slap shot from 25 feet past goaltender Eddie Johnston.

Montreal upset the B’s in seven games. The series made the cover of that week’s Sports Illustrated. Above a photo of Sanderson chasing one of the Canadiens players was the headline, “Catastrophe In Boston.” The Habs took Minnesota in six of their semifinal series and took care of Chicago in seven games of the Finals.

Game No. 2, April 10, 1982
Los Angeles 6, Edmonton 5 (OT)
Game 3, Smythe Division Semifinals

This game is known as the “Miracle on Manchester,” as the Fabulous Forum (the home of the Kings from 1967-99) was (and still is) located on the corner of Manchester Blvd. and South Prairie Ave. in Inglewood.

Edmonton seemed to be in control of the game. They were up 5-0 after two periods, thanks to future King Wayne Gretzky, who had two goals and two assists.

The Kings went to work in the final 20 minutes. Five different players (Jay Wells, Doug Smith, ex-California Golden Seals forward Charlie Simmer, Mark Hardy and Steve Bozek) all scored. In fact, Bozek’s game-tying goal came with just five seconds left in regulation.

Daryl Evans with the Kings.
At 2:35 of the first overtime, the “Miracle” was born. There was a faceoff in the circle to the left of Oilers goaltender Grant Fuhr. An all-rookie line of Bozek, Smith and future Kings radio analyst Daryl Evans was out for the Kings. Smith won the faceoff from Mark Messier and drew it behind him. Evans got the puck, wound up for a slap shot and went top shelf on Fuhr as the puck went past his glove for the winner.

Evans would score five goals and eight assists in 10 games of the Kings 1982 playoffs. Those postseason games were the highlight of his 113 regular season game, 11 playoff game NHL career.

The Kings eliminated the Oilers in five games and were ousted by Vancouver in five games of the Smythe Division Finals.

Game No. 3, April 28, 1985
Minnesota 5, Chicago 4 (OT)
Game 5, Norris Division Finals

Chicago had a 3-1 series lead heading into the Game 5. They were playing before a packed house of Hawks fans at the old Chicago Stadium. However, the stars were aligned, not for the Hawks, but for the North Stars from Minnesota.

Chicago started building their 4-0 lead, thanks to first period goals by Denis Savard and future Sharks Head Coach Darryl Sutter. Al Secord potted the third early in the second, followed by Steve Larmer’s tally with 10:52 remaining in that period.

The North Stars changed goaltenders after Larmer’s goal as Don Beaupre replaced ex-Seal and starter Gilles Meloche. Usually a change in netminders can spur a team. Such was the case with Minnesota. Tony McKegney got Minnesota’s first goal and Brian Bellows canned a shorthanded tally late in the second.

Chicago led, 4-2, with 7:07 left in regulation when Dino Ciccarelli’s goal cut the lead to 4-3. Then with 3:17 remaining in regulation, McKegney’s second goal of the game tied the score.

Doug Wilson with the Blackhawks.
The comeback was complete at 1:14 of overtime. Minnesota’s Dirk Graham (now a Sharks scout) came down on the right side with the puck. He drew two defensemen (Jack O’Callahan and Doug Wilson – yes, the 1980 Team U.S.A. “Miracle On Ice” gold medalist and the future Sharks executive vice president and general manager) with him. Dennis Maruk (who also played for the Seals) was open, got Graham’s pass near the goal crease and put the puck past Blackhawks goaltender Murray Bannerman to complete the comeback.

“You hope the goalie will come in and spark the team by making big saves the way Donnie did,” Maruk said after the game.

“We needed four big goals,” Beaupre said. “As we started getting them, our confidence grew.”

Minnesota’s luck ran out in Game 6 as the Hawks eliminated the North Stars two days later in overtime at the Met Center, 6-5.

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