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Shades of ‘42?: 3-1 Final Deficit Not Overcome in 81 Years

Six Teams Have Tried; Only One Has Succeeded

The Florida Panthers find themselves in another 3-1 series deficit as they enter Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Only one NHL team overcame such odds to come back and win the title: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s been 81 years, and if Florida is to make more shocking NHL news, it will need to win Game 5 first. Five others did and went on to force Game 7.

Shades of ‘42?: 3-1 Final Deficit Not Overcome in 81 Years
Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Florida Panthers | Bruce Bennett/getty Images/afp

2006 Oilers Resemble Panthers

The 2006 Edmonton Oilers were the last team to come close to overcoming a 3-1 Stanley Cup Final deficit. Edmonton edged Carolina in overtime in Game 5. Then goaltender Jussi Markkanen stood on his head for a shutout in Game 6. Carolina, however, put Edmonton away in Game 7.

This Oilers team resembles the current Panthers team. In their Cinderella runs, both are their conferences’ lowest seeds. They leaned on playoff heroics from their goaltenders and a few skaters to prove NHL picks wrong and make the Stanley Cup Final.

For Edmonton, it was Fernando Pisani who led the team with five game-winners, including the one that saved the team in Game 5 of the Final. For Florida, it’s Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe, tied with four game-winners.

Edmonton’s Dwayne Roloson also went on a hot run as he posted a 92.7 save percentage and allowed more than three goals just four times in 18 games. Unfortunately, he got hurt in the Stanley Cup Final.

While Sergei Bobrovsky did not get hurt, he has not been as unstoppable. He entered the series as the consensus NHL prediction to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. While he could still cash bet online at 22-1, he must return to his flawless form for the next three games.

Others That Fell Short

1. 1994 Vancouver Canucks

A dozen years before the Oilers, another Canadian team almost came back from a 3-1 deficit: the Canucks. Vancouver threatened to end the New York Rangers’ feel-good season as it upset the Game 5 NHL odds before cruising to another win in Game 6.

And unlike Edmonton-Carolina, the Canucks threatened to win Game 7 as Trevor Linden scored in the third. Alas, the Rangers held on to win and snapped the franchise’s 54-year Stanley Cup drought.

2. 1987 Philadelphia Flyers

Like the Oilers and Panthers, the Flyers got to within one game of winning the Stanley Cup thanks to an immovable goaltender: Ron Hextall. He stood his ground as Philadelphia, staring at elimination, won Game 5 and Game 6 by one goal each. The latter went down in NHL lore as “The Night the Spectrum Shook.”

Unfortunately, Hextall’s heroics would not lead to a comeback from Philadelphia. Edmonton won Game 7 3-1 despite his 40 saves. As a consolation, Hextall won the Conn Smythe Trophy as one of five players from the losing team.

3. 1954 Montreal Canadiens

Philadelphia’s near-comeback was the first in 33 years and the first after the 1967 NHL expansion. Before that, Montreal forced a Game 7 despite falling behind 3-1 versus Detroit.

Montreal won Game 5 1-0 in Detroit as Gerry McNeil subbed in for Jacques Plante in net. He’d have another strong outing in Game 6. But in Game 7, Detroit edged Montreal 2-1 to win the Final.

4. 1945 Detroit Red Wings

Nine years earlier, it would be Detroit on the other end of the failed comeback. This was against Toronto, which is a reverse of the 1942 Stanley Cup Final where Detroit blew a 3-0 series lead. The Red Wings failed to score a goal in the first three games.

But in Games 4 to 6, Detroit turned the tables to force a Game 7. And Detroit nearly completed the comeback. But Babe Pratt scored on the power play with 8:46 left in the third as Toronto held on to win.

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