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'It's Been Done Before': A Look Back at the 2.2 Percent

Wild faces great odds in generating comeback, but takes comfort in knowing NHL is no stranger to upsets

by Devin Lowe /

ST. PAUL -- Ironically, rare events happen all the time.

People win the lottery, lightning sometimes strikes the same spot twice and, occasionally, a hockey team will lose the first three games of its best-of-seven series, only to come back and win four in a row to advance (or even capture a championship).

The question now is whether the Minnesota Wild can be that hockey team.

The Wild, down by three games to the St. Louis Blues, is one of four NHL clubs now facing a 3-0 deficit in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the West, Anaheim and Nashville are both up by three games on Calgary and Chicago, respectively. Over in the East, Pittsburgh will have a chance to sweep Columbus on Tuesday night.

So just how rare is it to mount a comeback that's enough to overcome three straight losses in a postseason series?

"I don't think anyone has a doubt that we can do that," said Wild forward Mikael Granlund. "I think we all know we are capable to do that. It would be a great story. All we need to focus on is tomorrow."

The odds aren't good: Of the 184 NHL teams that have fallen into the 3-0 hole, just four have gone on to win their series.

Do the math or don't, but either way, that's a 2.2-percent success rate in a League celebrating its 100th anniversary this calendar year.

Yes, it's rare, but it does happen, and it's happened recently enough to make Minnesota think it has a chance to do the same.

"It's been done before," said Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. "We just have to take it one game at a time. Tomorrow's a huge game and we're all excited for it at the same time."

The team to most recently and most notably escape a 3-0 deficit was the 2014 Los Angeles Kings. The Kings fell behind on the road against the San Jose Sharks in Games 1 and 2, where they were defeated handily by scores of 6-3 and 7-2. When the series shifted back to L.A., they lost again in overtime.

But in Game 4, the Kings came out swinging and the rest is history: They defeated the Sharks in seven games, took down the Ducks in seven, downed the Blackhawks in seven more and hoisted the Stanley Cup after beating the New York Rangers in double overtime in Game 5 at Staples Center.

Before the Kings, it was the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers. The seventh-seeded Flyers ousted the second-seeded New Jersey Devils in five games, but ran into trouble when they hit the Boston Bruins in the second round.

The Bruins won the first two contests at home by a one-goal margin, including an overtime victory, and looked to be on the brink of a sweep after a 4-1 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia.

In Game 4, Simon Gagne netted the overtime game-winner for Philly, and the Flyers won Games 5 and 6. They fell into an early three-goal hole in Game 7, but clawed back to tie the game, with Gagne tallying the game-winning goal. Those Flyers made it all the way to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

And how about the 1975 New York Islanders, led by the legendary Denis Potvin, who had just qualified for the franchise's first-ever postseason berth? The Isles eliminated the Rangers in three games (back when that was possible) and went on to knock out the Pittsburgh Penguins, even after falling behind by three contests.

To find the fourth of the 2.2 percent, you have to look back all the way to 1942, the Toronto Maple Leafs' 25th season in the NHL. These Leafs were the first team to ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit, and they remain the only team to have done so in the championship round -- although the playoffs were a bit shorter back then.

After dispatching the New York Rangers in six games, the Maple Leafs matched up against the Detroit Red Wings in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto lost each of the first three games -- by scores of 3-2, 4-2 and then 5-2 -- before mounting its comeback. The Leafs won Game 4 by a score of 4-3, potted a whopping nine goals in Game 5, shut out the Wings in Game 6 and finally sealed the deal with a 3-1 victory to clinch the Cup.

These teams' mark on the NHL's history book serves as proof that it can and does happen from time to time. The odds of all four clubs currently in the 0-3 hole coming back in such an epic fashion? Not so good.

But the odds for one club? The odds that Minnesota might be that hockey team? Maybe.

"If you don't believe, then why do we go? I firmly believe that we've got a shot, as every other team in the League does," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "You go there and you try to win one game."

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