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The Greatest NHL Games Of All-Time


Open a discussion on the “greatest” of anything - be it sports, movies or fast cars, and you can always expect a variety of opinions. That’s never more true then when it comes to discussing the greatest NHL games of all times. Just get a few puck fans together and toss that question out there one day; the conversation is sure to get heated and the opinions will be as interesting as they are varied, but you’re sure to emerge a more knowledgeable hockey fan.

In fact, a sports buddy of mine and I were discussing that very topic the other day.  The conversation came up while we were shopping the betting lines on a few sports betting sites online, so the competitive spirits we were in set the stage for a good debate. While we couldn’t agree on THE greatest game in National Hockey League history, we did agree on a few classics. Ok, we came up with a bunch, but these were the ones that really dominated our banter.

1936 Stanley Cup Playoffs Montreal Maroons vs. Detroit Red Wings

While yours truly wasn’t around for the marathon Maroons versus Red Wings NHL playoff tilt March 24, 1936, the fact that this is the longest contest in NHL history gets it onto the list. Mud Brunetaeu, who had just been called up to the big leagues two weeks earlier, scored for Detroit in the sixth overtime period giving the Wings a 1-0 win and a 1-0 semi final series lead. This contest lasted a record 176:30 minutes and went well into the morning. Detroit goaltender Normie Smith stopped all 92 shots he faced – that’s a record in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Boston Bruins vs. St Louis Blues Stanley Cup 1970 Final Game

Fast-forward to 1970 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues for another of the greatest NHL games ever. This contest makes the list not only because it was a game to clinch a Stanley Cup Championship but also because it produced one of the most iconic images in hockey history. Show even the most casual sports fan that image and they will tell you that it’s Bruins superstar defensemen Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring forty seconds into overtime. The series, won 4-0 by the big bad Bruins, isn’t that memorable but Orr’s goal, on Blues goalie Glenn Hall is etched in the minds of hockey fans young and old alike.

Easter Epic New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals 1986 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Hockey fans were up when the Easter Bunny was making his rounds in the wee hours of Easter Sunday back on April 19, 1897. That’s because the Islanders and Capitals battled into a fourth overtime period during Game 7 of their Patrick Division Semifinal contest. The Capital Center in Landover, Maryland, was still packed to capacity when Islanders superstar Patty LaFontaine scored at the 68:47 mark in overtime. Despite out shooting New York by a 75-57 margin, the Capitals and their fans went home disappointed as the Boys from Long Island won by a 3-2 final score. This contest, at 6 hours and 18 minutes in real time, is still the longest Game 7 in NHL playoff history.

Los Angeles Kings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 1993 Greatness is Spelled Gretzky

It’s difficult to create a “greatest NHL games ever” list without including a contest that Wayne Gretzky left an indelible mark on. Make that two games as #99 crushed the Leafs in games six and seven of the 1993 Stanley Cup semifinals.

First, down three games to two, and after clipping Doug Gilmore and cutting open his chin (no penalty was called) Gretzky scored in overtime to force a Game 7 back in Toronto. It was then that Gretzky, by his own admission, played the greatest game of his life. In that seventh and deciding game, the Great One scored three goals and added an assist as the Kings went on to a 5-4 victory. That would be the first and last time (until the 2012 NHL playoffs) that Los Angeles would play for Lord Stanley’s mug.

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SYF's avatar

So many good ones, Paul.  I think my personal favorite is The Professor’s 3OT winner in Game Three of the ‘02 Cup Finals.  Without Arturs Irbe, the Wings would’ve blown out the Canes.  The Canes that year were the best team in OT in the playoffs.  I think they were like 8-0 in OT games including the OT winner in Game One at the Joe.  I completely underestimated that team and I had flashbacks of the ‘95 SCFs against the Devils.

According to game stats, the Wings put 11 SOGs in the first OT to the Canes’ 5 SOGs.  As the game wore on into the second and third OTs, I wondered if the old legs had caught up to the Wings, but The Professor left one more lesson:  patience.  He waited long enough and potted the winner.  The oldest guy on the ice scored the biggest goal of the summer.  It didn’t entirely take out the confidence of the Canes’ ability to win tight games, but it certainly shook their confidence enough.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 08/03/12 at 01:54 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Found it on youtube.

Game Three 2002 SCFs.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 08/03/12 at 01:56 PM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

I’ll agree with the islanders/caps game. Wow! Those goalies played the game of their lifes. Unfortunately, I fell asleep in the 3rd ot.

I’ll never forget hrudey’s 2 on 0 stop and doing his best olympic gymnastics imitation.

Posted by Keyser S. on 08/03/12 at 02:30 PM ET


How about the Miracle On Manchester? Kings down 5-0 in 3rd period in a playoff game to come back and win 6-5 in OT?  And a Gretzky give away to send it to overtime .. Pretty good game that might deserve some consideration.


Posted by scooter from saskatoon on 08/03/12 at 02:43 PM ET

WingsFanInBeanLand's avatar

March 26, 1997 will always be the greatest game I ever watched.

Posted by WingsFanInBeanLand from where free agents no longer dare. on 08/03/12 at 02:52 PM ET

Ajax19's avatar

March 26, 1997 will always be the greatest game I ever watched.

I totally agree.

- You had two of the top teams in the NHL from a talent-level, including the defending Stanley Cup Champions

- The game included some of the most talented players in the game at the time, including Sakic, Forsberg, Deadmarsh, Roy, Yzerman, Fedorov, Shanahan, Lidstrom, Konstantinov, and Larionov. So, easily 7 or 8 future Hall of Famers at the very least (likely a few more).

- You had 11 goals in the game, including a sensational goal in overtime to win it.

- You had 18 fighting majors.

Here’s the box score:

Colorado 1 3 1 0—5
Detroit 0 3 2 1—6

FIRST PERIOD—Scoring: 1, Colorado, Kamensky 24 (Forsberg), 3:29.
Penalties: Young, Col (interference), 1:20; Severyn, Col (fighting major),
4:45; Pushor, Det (fighting major), 4:45; Sakic, Col (interference), 5:12;
Corbet, Col (fighting major), 10:14; Maltby, Det (fighting major), 10:14;
Draper, Det (roughing), 10:14; Forsberg, Col (roughing), 18:22; Roy, Col
(roughing, fighting major), 18:22; Larionov, Det (roughing), 18:22;
Vernon, Det (roughing, fighting major), 18:22; Mccarty, Det ( double
roughing minor), 18:22; Deadmarsh, Col (cross checking, fighting major),
18:37; Konstantinov, Det (fighting major), 18:37.

SECOND PERIOD—Scoring: 2, Detroit, Fedorov 29 (Murphy, Yzerman),
0:35. 3, Colorado, Kamensky 25 (power play) (Jones, Ozolinsh), 1:12. 4,
Detroit, Lapointe 13 (Kozlov), 3:08. 5, Colorado, Corbet 10 (Yelle), 6:20.
6, Colorado, Deadmarsh 32 (Lefebvre, Lacroix), 13:34. 7, Detroit, Lidstrom
15 (power play) (Yzerman), 19:40. Penalties: Foote, Col (fighting major),
0:04; Shanahan, Det (fighting major), 0:04; Lapointe, Det (roughing),
0:56; Severyn, Col (fighting major, game misconduct), 3:34; Keane, Col
(fighting major), 3:34; Ward, Det (fighting major, game misconduct), 3:34;
Holmstrom, Det (fighting major), 3:34; Deadmarsh, Col (fighting major),
7:24; Mccarty, Det (roughing, fighting major), 7:24; Krupp, Col (fighting
major), 11:26; Pushor, Det (fighting major), 11:26; Deadmarsh, Col
(interference), 14:47; Young, Col (hooking), 18:38.

THIRD PERIOD—Scoring: 8, Colorado, Kamensky 26 (Yelle, Lemieux),
1:11. 9, Detroit, Lapointe 14 (Fedorov, Murphy), 8:27. 10, Detroit,
Shanahan 46 (Larionov, Pushor), 9:03. Penalties: Ozolinsh, Col (cross
checking, roughing), 6:26; Maltby, Det (roughing), 6:26; Pushor, Det
(holding), 14:40; Ozolinsh, Col (tripping), 16:07.

OVERTIME—Scoring: 11, Detroit, Mccarty 19 (Shanahan, Larionov), 0:39.

Shots on goal:
Colorado 6 7 6 0—19
Detroit 8 23 15 1—47

Power-play Conversions: Col - 1 of 6, Det - 1 of 7. Goalies: Colorado,
Roy (47 shots, 41 saves; record: 36-14-7). Detroit, Vernon (19, 14;
record: 12-9-6). A:19,983. Referee: P Devorski. Linesmen: Scapinello,

What more could one ever want out of a hockey game? Great skill, lots of offensive, two of the best teams in the league, a bunch of future Hall of Famers, pure emotion, a true rivalry at its peak, and a ton of physical play.

Posted by Ajax19 on 08/03/12 at 02:57 PM ET


Nice to see the Kings make the list, but most Los Angeles fans would probably say that The Miracle on Manchester trumps the ‘93 playoff games.

Posted by Rob from San Luis Obispo, CA on 08/05/12 at 05:06 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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