Commentary

Let's make some more history

Updated: June 12, 2009, 11:57 AM ET
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com

They've bled. They've sweated. They've fought. They've grown their hockey beards (well, Sidney Crosby tried) and answered way too many questions about character and motivation and effort.

And now, the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins have a Game 7. We have a Game 7 -- only the 15th in Stanley Cup finals history since the NHL went to the best-of-seven format in 1939.

As we remember the best games and moments in Game 7 history, a quick note to you Penguins fans: The past 18 times a Game 7 has been played in the finals of the NHL, NBA or MLB, the home team has won. The past road team to win such a game: the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Is that karma? Stay tuned.

Five key Game 7 moments

1. 1954: With Detroit and Montreal tied 1-1 in overtime, Red Wings winger Tony Leswick dumped the puck into the Montreal zone, where Doug Harvey attempted to play the puck. But it took a crazy bounce and deflected off Harvey and past goalie Gerry McNeil for the Cup-winning goal.

2. 1971: Chicago led Montreal 2-0 in the second period when Jacques Lemaire fired a soft, floating slap shot from just past center ice that flew past Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito. Chicago had dominated the game until then, but Montreal took off from there, winning 3-2 on two goals from Henri Richard. According to Hawks center Stan Mikita, Esposito always had trouble seeing the puck on long-range shots.

[+] EnlargeNikolai Khabibulin
Elsa/Getty ImagesNikolai Khabibulin was clutch in goal as Tampa captured the Cup in 2004.

3. 1994: Attempting to win their first Cup since 1940, the Rangers grasped to a 3-2 lead over the Canucks with the raucous Madison Square Garden crowd chanting, "We want the Cup! We want the Cup!" With five minutes remaining, Vancouver's Nathan LaFayette fired a shot that glanced off the post. The Rangers got their Cup.

4. 2004: Tampa Bay led Calgary 2-1 late in the third as the Flames fought desperately to tie the game. Jordan Leopold fired a shot into what appeared to be an open net, but Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made a fantastic pad save to preserve the victory.

5. 2006: Carolina held a 2-1 edge over Edmonton with the clock winding down. The Oilers controlled the puck and pulled the goalie, but Chris Pronger -- who had played great all series -- turned the puck over to give up an open-netter to Justin Williams with 1:01 left, icing the victory for the Canes.

Five surprise Game 7 heroes

1. Frank McCool, Toronto, 1945: With regular goalie Turk Broda in the army all season, McCool, a 26-year-old rookie, played all 50 games for the Maple Leafs. With McCool coming up big, Toronto beat Detroit 2-1 in Game 7. McCool would play only 22 more games in his NHL career.

2. Ken Dryden, Montreal, 1971: Dryden would go on to a Hall of Fame career, but in 1971, he was a rookie goalie who had played just six games during the regular season (and had won all six). But he started all 20 games in the playoffs and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, a run that included several remarkable saves in Game 7.

3. Mike Rupp, New Jersey, 2003: Rupp hadn't even appeared in the playoffs until Game 4 of the finals against Anaheim. In Game 7, his second-period goal gave the Devils a 1-0 lead, and he later assisted on Jeff Friesen's two goals as Jersey won 3-0. To date, Rupp still has one career playoff goal in 25 games.

4. Cam Ward, Carolina, 2006: Ward began the playoffs as the No. 2 goalie behind Martin Gerber but ended up winning more playoff games (15) than he did during the regular season (14). As the team's former No. 1 pick in 2002, he wasn't without talent, but his rise was unexpected. In Game 7, he made 22 saves, including a big save with four minutes left, when he stopped a Raffi Torres shot and got his left skate on the rebound just before Fernando Pisani's stick.

5. Frantisek Kaberle, Carolina, 2006: The veteran defenseman had joined Carolina for the 2005-06 season after toiling in obscuring for the Thrashers. He scored just six regular-season goals but had four in the playoffs, including the first goal of Game 7. He has scored just three goals total the past three seasons.

Five memorable Game 7 Cup presentations

1. 1987: Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky received the Cup and handed it to teammate Steve Smith, who had cost Edmonton Game 7 against Calgary the previous year after scoring an own goal.

[+] EnlargeMark Messier
Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images"We want the Cup! We want the Cup!"

2. 1994: Mark Messier got the Cup and jumped up and down like a little kid. As he should.

3. 2001: Colorado beat New Jersey 3-1 behind Patrick Roy, but the lasting memory will be Joe Sakic's handing the Cup to a red-eyed Ray Bourque.

4. 2004: Tampa Bay captain Dave Andreychuk, 40, lifted the Cup after playing a record 1,758 games without winning.

5. 2006: Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina's 35-year-old captain, with tears streaming down his face, accepted the Cup for the first time in his career. He then handed it to 37-year-old Glen Wesley, who finally won a finals series after 18 years in the NHL.

Ranking the Game 7s

14. 2003: Devils 3, Mighty Ducks 0
Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, but Martin Brodeur came up the winner in a snoozer finale to a snoozer seven-game series (four shutouts, five games decided by three goals, including the final three).

13. 1965: Canadiens 4, Blackhawks 0
Talk about anticlimactic: Jean Beliveau scored 14 seconds into the game as Montreal scored four times in the first period and Gump Worsley earned the shutout.

12. 1964: Maple Leafs 4, Red Wings 0
A great series -- five one-goal games, two overtime games, including Bob Baun's legendary overtime goal in Game 6 while playing on a fractured ankle -- but a stinker of a Game 7.

11. 1945: Maple Leafs 2, Red Wings 1
The Leafs won the first three games, the Wings next three. Game 7 was in Detroit and tied 1-1 in the third period when Babe Pratt's power-play goal with 7:46 left lifted Toronto to victory.

10. 1942: Maple Leafs 3, Red Wings 1
Detroit had won the first three games, but Toronto won the next three, 4-3, 9-3 and 3-0. Before a crowd of more than 16,000 at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Wings scored first on Syd Howe's goal in the second period. They held the lead into the third before Sweeney Schriner tied it with a power-play goal. Pete Langelle put Toronto ahead minutes later, and Schriner sealed the amazing comeback.

9. 1955: Red Wings 3, Canadiens 1
Playing without star Maurice "Rocket" Richard, who had been suspended for the rest of the regular season and playoffs after assaulting linesman Cliff Thompson, Montreal had won 6-3 in Game 6 to force a finale. That game would be played in Detroit, in part thanks to the Richard Riot. After the Rocket had been suspended, NHL president Clarence Campbell attended a game in Montreal on March 17 against the Red Wings. When he arrived, fans began pelting him with garbage and debris; it got worse as Detroit built a 4-1 lead. Somebody let off a tear gas bomb, the Montreal Forum was evacuated and the game forfeited to Detroit -- which ended up winning the regular-season championship by two points over Montreal to secure home ice. Anyway, in Game 7, Alex Delvecchio scored twice, and Gordie Howe added the clincher.

8. 2001: Avalanche 3, Devils 1
Alex Tanguay scored two goals, including the eventual winner in the second period. Patrick Roy completed a memorable playoff run that included a 1.58 goals-against average in 23 games, including two shutouts in the Finals.

7. 2006: Hurricanes 3, Oilers 1
After a rollicking series that featured four one-goal games as well as Edmonton's rebound from a 2-0 series deficit and the loss of goalie Dwayne Roloson in Game 1, Carolina took a 2-0 lead on goals from defensemen Frantisek Kaberle and Aaron Ward. Fernando Pisani made it 2-1 early in the third, but Chris Pronger turned over the puck to set up Justin Williams' empty-netter with 1:01 left to clinch it.

6. 1954: Red Wings 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
Montreal had won Games 5 and 6 to force the finale, which Detroit won on Tony Leswick's fluke overtime goal off Hall of Famer Doug Harvey.

5. 1987: Oilers 3, Flyers 1
The Flyers scored first on a two-man advantage less than two minutes into the game. Edmonton goalie Grant Fuhr made two big saves on Doug Crossman in the first period, and then the Oilers took over. Mark Messier tied it after some nifty passes from Kent Nilsson and Glenn Anderson, and Jari Kurri put Edmonton up 2-1 in the second. The Oilers continued their assault on Ron Hextall -- he was stellar in defeat with 40 saves -- but the Flyers could manage only two shots in the third period, and Anderson finally clinched it with 2:24 left.

4. 2004: Lightning 2, Flames 1
Game 5 had gone into overtime. Game 6 into double overtime. Ruslan Fedotenko scored in the first and second periods for a 2-0 lead as the Flames were held to just seven shots. Finally, in a frantic final period, Craig Conroy scored a power-play goal midway through the period to make it 2-1. Tampa goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had 16 saves, including several incredible stops in the final period.

[+] Enlarge1971 Canadiens
AP PhotoHenri Richard, center, scored Montreal's final two goals in a 3-2 victory.

3. 1971: Canadiens 3, Black Hawks 2
Playing at home, Chicago dominated early with a 2-0 lead and nearly made it 3-0 when a Bobby Hull shot smacked off the crossbar. Then came Jacques Lemaire's infamous slap shot from center ice and two goals from Henri Richard, who had called Montreal coach Al MacNeil "incompetent" and "the worst coach I've ever played for" after Game 5. (MacNeil was assigned a bodyguard after that and would be replaced by Scotty Bowman the next season.) Ken Dryden made a huge save on a point-blank shot in the third period from Jimmy Pappin, who had had started to raise his stick in celebration. (Check the four-minute mark of the video.)

2. 1994: Rangers 3, Canucks 2
The Rangers had gone through six team presidents, 24 coaches and more than 4,000 games since last winning the Stanley Cup. The Rangers jumped to an early 2-0 lead, but Trevor Linden's short-handed goal in the second made it 2-1. Mark Messier restored the two-goal lead, but Linden quieted the Madison Square Garden crowd with another tally early in the third. Vancouver twice hit the post in the third period and, with the crowd going bonkers, the Rangers survived three faceoffs in their own zone in the final 37 seconds.

1. 1950: Red Wings 4, Rangers 3 (2 OT)
Hey, it's hard to top a double-overtime Game 7 that featured seven goals and capped a dramatic series that saw the final four games being decided by one goal, three of which reached overtime -- and the Rangers playing two "home games" in Toronto because the circus had booked Madison Square Garden. Gordie Howe had missed the entire series after crashing into the boards against Toronto, suffering a lacerated eyeball, fractured cheekbone and head injuries that required two surgeries to relieve pressure on his brain. (In fact, he was so critical that his parents were summoned from Saskatoon.) Detroit tied Game 7 when Jim McFadden scored with 4:03 left, then took the Cup on Pete Babando's goal 28:31 into overtime. Howe, in street clothes, joined the on-ice celebration.

David Schoenfield | email

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