Stanley Cup Playoffs: Philadelphia Flyers fan Ryan Binder outside the Wells Fargo before the home opener against Anaheim Ducks. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Top Comebacks in Recent NHL History (2010 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins, 2014 Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks, 2013 Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs)
Perhaps the greatest NFL game ever happened on Sunday night. The Patriots, down 28-3, came all the way back to win the first overtime Super Bowl. So, with that influence, let’s look at the greatest NHL comebacks in recent Stanley Cup Playoffs history.
First, some statistics. There have been four Reverse Sweeps in NHL history. Reverse Sweeps are when a team, down 3-0 in a best of seven game series, wins 4 straight to take it. The four teams to do so are the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders, the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, and the 2014 Los Angeles Kings. Let’s take a look at two of those comebacks: the Kings and the Flyers. (Thanks to Puck Report)
They weren’t well coached, at least at first. Philadelphia fired their head coach, John Stevens, halfway through the season and replaced him with now-Predators coach Peter Laviolette. The Flyers barely made the playoffs, making it as the 7th seed in the Eastern conference.
The Flyers got a ticket to face their inter-divisional rival the New Jersey Devils in round one. Philadelphia had taken five of six matchups in the regular season. The Flyers and Devils split the pair of games in New Jersey, and Philadelphia won the first game at home on the back of Daniel Carcillo (really). Then, in game 4, the Flyers won but lost Jeff Carter to a broken foot.
Stanley Cup Playoffs: A Zamboni prepares the ice featuring the Flyers 50th anniversary logo before the home opener between Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 2010 Flyers continued (Game 5)
In game five, goaltender Brian Boucher put on a shutout and propelled the Flyers further.
In the second series, against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers would not take a lead through the first two games. Philadelphia caught up to the Bruins in each game, but never lead. It was not until game 3 that the Flyers would lead in a game, but even that was short-lived. They lost that game after scoring the first goal.
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Then the Flyers made one of the most spectacular comebacks on their way to their first (and last) Stanley Cup appearance of the new millennium. Philadelphia started it off with an exciting game 4, taking a 3-1 lead but letting it melt away, before scoring again and getting tied again with 20 seconds left. The Flyers won game 4 in OT on the back of alternate captain Simon Gagne.
In Game 5, the Flyers posted a dominant shutout on Boston ice. It took two goalies to post the shutout, as Brian Boucher went out of the game after getting injuries to both knees. Michael Leighton came in and shut out the Bruins for 59 minutes in game 6. In Game 7, after a 3-0 lead by the Bruins, the Flyers came back to tie it at 3. With a Too Many Men penalty from the Bruins, the Flyers scored and eventually won.
The Flyers continued past the Canadiens with a dominant performance, including three shutouts. Then the Flyers came face to face with the young upstart Chicago Blackhawks. They lost to the emerging Blackhawks dynasty on this goal:
Stanley Cup Playoffs: General overall view of Los Angeles Kings 50th anniversary logo at center ice during a NHL hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Detroit Red Wings at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2014 Los Angeles Kings (vs. San Jose Sharks)
This series could be considered a choke job by the Sharks or just a complete team win by the Kings. Much the same way this week’s football game could be considered the Falcons choke or the Patriots come back.
But the Sharks had been dominant against many teams all regular season. San Jose finished with five more wins than the Kings, and 11 more points. They got home ice for their playoff matchup, and the Sharks had won 2 of 3 on their home ice versus the Kings.
The Sharks, much like 2010’s iteration of the Boston Bruins, got up to a 3-0 series lead. San Jose looked pretty unstoppable, scoring 6 and 7 on Quick and the Kings in the first two games. They allowed only 3, 2, and 3 goals in those first three games. It looked like San Jose would inevitably take that game, and they were also well made.
It was then playoff-mode Jonathan Quick showed up. After a 6-3 win by the Kings in game 4, the Sharks would only score 2 goals in the next three games. The Kings battled back from being nearly eliminated, never having doubted their ability to return.
The playoffs from then on would be exciting for the Kings, as all first three playoff series would go to seven games. The Kings beat the Ducks in the following series in game 7 in a crushing defeat, after the Ducks had gone up 3-2.
They then faced that same Blackhawks dynasty. The Kings nearly had a comeback against them, after getting up to a 3-1 series lead and allowing the Blackhawks back into the series. Game 7 would go to OT, after the Blackhawks held three leads, 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3. The Kings would score the last two goals to win the game, including this one:
And then the Stanley Cup final was never truly in doubt, as the Kings went on to defeat the New York Rangers in 5 games, including 3 OT wins. The Kings were king of the comebacks in 2014.
Stanley Cup Playoffs: After being named the first star of the game and scoring the winning goal, Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) hands an autographed stick to a young fan after the Boston Bruins 4-3 win over the New York Rangers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
2013 Boston Bruins (vs. Toronto Maple Leafs)
And lastly, perhaps one of the biggest single-game comebacks in NHL history: Game 7 of Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins in 2013.
The Maple Leafs were on the edge of making their own playoff series comebacks, after going down 3-1 to the Bruins. The Bruins had been beaten twice, and the momentum seemed to be going all towards Toronto.
The Bruins had soundly beaten the Maple Leafs a few times early in the series. That included wins of 4-1 and 5-2. The Maple Leafs had taken their own big victory, taking game 2 4-2. The momentum seemed to shift in game 4, a 4-3 win in OT for the Bruins.
The next two games were incredibly close, with Toronto taking both 2-1. Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur had been heroes for the Leafs, who were desperate to get any traction in the playoffs. James Reimer made 43 and 29 saves in each of those two games, and looked to be the goalie Toronto needed.
Early in game 7, the Maple Leafs jumped out to a 4-1 victory. Everything seemed to be going their way, and Reimer and Kessel looked to be heroes for Toronto. The Maple Leafs scored their four goals unanswered, including two from defenseman Cody Franson. The Maple Leafs let up a goal to Nathan Horton 9 minutes into the third period, but it didn’t seem that big.
Until the Bruins scored two goals merely 31 seconds apart from each other from stars Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron. That tied the game, and signaled the momentum had shifted towards the Bruins again. Six minutes into the overtime period and it was over. Toronto blew a 4-1 game lead in the biggest game in Toronto’s recent history.