Don’t stop believin’€™: Five improbable comebacks that never should’ve happened

The New York Rangers may be down 3-0 to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, but not all hope is lost.

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The New York Rangers are clearly in big trouble. With a lackluster 3-0 loss in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Blueshirts’ prospects of bringing home their first Cup since 1994 are dire at best. 

Of course, that doesn’€™t mean all is lost, right? There have been similar comebacks, though few and far between. History may not be on the Rangers’€™ side, but the most gratifying thing about every one of these five unlikely results is that practically no one really expected them. Sports!

1942 Stanley Cup Final

It remains, to this day, the most famous and unlikely comeback in hockey history, but the fact is that the Detroit Red Wings really had no business ever being up 3-0 on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first place. With a dismal 19-25-4 regular-season record, the Wings had to win not one but two three-game series to make the Final. Toronto, by virtue of its second-best record of 27-18-3, had to beat only the top-seeded New York Rangers to advance. 

After the Red Wings won the first three games, they led 2-0 at home in Game 4, but the Leafs pressed their way back for a 4-3 win. (The night proved so calamitous for the Wings that Detroit coach Jack Adams ended up punching an on-ice referee in the face after the game’s conclusion.) Toronto won the next two games, 9-3 and 3-0, but was losing 1-0 at home in Game 7 with just 20 minutes to play before scoring three clutch goals. 

The final game was witnessed by, to that point, the largest crowd in Canadian hockey history.

2004 American League Championship Series

Yankees. Red Sox. The memory of 2003. The Game 3 embarrassment. Dave Roberts stealing second in Game 4. The Game 5 marathon. The bloody sock in Game 6. The Game 7 grand slam.  

Good lord, did that actually all happen?

1999 French Open final

Andre Agassi had come all the way back from rock bottom, a world ranking in the 140s just two years prior. But he was the only seeded player (No. 13) in the men’€™s draw to even make the semifinals at Roland Garros in 1999. And after falling behind two sets to none (1-6, 2-6) to Andrei Medvedev in the championship, Agassi stormed back and won the next three sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-4) to finally complete his career Grand Slam.

Also competing in that ’99 French Open? A young Swiss named Roger Federer, who was playing in his first career major. Federer was knocked out in the first round by No. 3 seed Patrick Rafter, though Fed did win the first set.

1992 AFC Wild Card Game

We all know the story: Down 35-3 early in the second half to the Houston Oilers, Buffalo Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich engineers the most remarkable playoff comeback in football history.

Here’€™s a video of every scoring play from that game, like a wave of madness that rolls higher with every go-around. The glimpse at the end of a dejected Warren Moon is well worth your time. 

2012 English Premier League (final day)

Manchester United was literally seconds away from winning its sixth league title in seven years. Instead, two goals from Manchester City in stoppage time and the most dramatic late-game comeback to win a championship ever — yes, ever — was complete.

Don’t call it a comeback, but do follow Erik Malinowski on Twitter at @erikmal or email him at