April 30 has been a very eventful day in National Hockey League history. A dynasty was temporarily derailed by an errant pass, multiple epic comebacks were completed and records were set across the league.
Smith’s Unforgettable Gaffe
Defenseman Steve Smith played in 804 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames, scoring 375 points. He was a three-time Stanley Cup winner with 134 games of playoff experience and was as steady as you could be on the blue line. However, just like Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox, most people remember him because of a brain cramp during a high-profile playoff game.
On April 30, 1986, Smith’s 23rd birthday, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Oilers hosted the Flames in Game 7 of the Smythe Division Final. Smith and the Oilers erased a 2-0 deficit and the game was even, late in the third period, before disaster struck.
With just over five minutes to play, Smith tried to pass to his defensive partner, but the puck hit an unaware Grant Fuhr and trickled into the Oilers’ net. He immediately fell to the ice in anguish.
The Oilers were unable to tie the game and their season ended. That play may have prevented them from winning five Stanley Cups in a row as they won it all again in 1987 and 1988. The ironic part is, that the 1985-86 team might have been the best one out of those squads in Edmonton during the 1980s. They had four players with over 100 points during the regular season, including Wayne Gretzky’s record-setting 215 points.
That was a heck of a way to end your rookie season, but Smith was able to shake it off to have a very long and productive NHL career.
April 30, 1992, saw a pair of epic playoff comebacks get finished off. In Detroit, the Red Wings beat the Minnesota North Stars 5-2, in Game 7 of the Norris Division Semifinals. They get goals from five different players to advance to the next round after losing three out of the first four games of the series. They were just the ninth team in NHL history to win a best-of-seven series after going down 3-1.
It did not take very long for the league to have its 10th team comeback to win after falling into a 3-1 hole. Later that night, Kirk McLean got his first career playoff shutout in the Vancouver Canucks’ 5-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets, in Game 7 of the Smythe Division Semifinals. It was their third straight victory to know the Jets out of the postseason.
On April 30, 2014, the Los Angeles Kings became just the fourth team in NHL history to win a Game 7 after losing the first three games of a playoff series. They beat the San Jose Sharks 5-1, in Game 7 of their first-round series, on their way to winning their second Stanly Cup in three seasons.
This was actually the second time Kings’ forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were on a team that made an epic comeback after being down 3-0. They were both members of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers who erased a 3-0 deficit against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Sharks Smell Blood in the Water
This date wasn’t all bad news for the Sharks. Outside of the loss in 2014, they have had a fair amount of success on April 30. In 1994, they stunned the heavily-favored Red Wings with a 3-2 victory in Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Jamie Baker scored the series-clinching goal off a turnover by goaltender Chris Osgood.
The Sharks became the first team since the 1975 New York Islanders to win their first-ever playoff series.
On April 30, 1999, Vincent Damphousse scored two shorthanded goals in the third period to tie an NHL playoff record as the Sharks beat the Colorado Avalanche, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Mike Vernon recorded the first playoff assist by a Sharks goaltender, as well.
Speaking of the Sharks and shorthanded goals, on April 30, 2008, Patrick Marleau became the first player in postseason history ever to score one on consecutive days. His unassisted, shorthanded tally, midway through the second period, proved to be the difference in a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
On April 30, 2019, Logan Couture netted his first career playoff hat trick as the Sharks beat the Avalanche 4-2, in Game 3 of their second-round series. He as 43 playoff goals since 2010, only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has scored more.
Odds & Ends
The Hockey Hall of Fame announced its first-ever induction class on April 30, 1945. The inaugural group of players and builders were Hobey Baker, Chuck Gardiner, Eddie Gerard, Frank McGee, Howie Morenz, Tommy Phillips, Harvey Pulford, Hod Stuart, Georges Vezina and Lord Stanley of Preston.
On April 30, 1970, the St. Louis Blues beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Bill McCreary scores a goal and assists on two others, including the game-winner, to lead the Blues to their third straight Stanley Cup Final and last one until they won it all in 2019.
Ken Hodge enters Boston sports lore when he scored his first and only playoff hat trick on April 30, 1972. His three goals help the Bruins fend off the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Hodge gets the Bruins out to a 5-1 lead before the Rangers storm back to tie the game in the third period. Garnet Bailey saves the day with the game-winning goal with just over two minutes to play.
On April 30, 1977, Ken Dryden recorded his third shutout of the postseason, and the seventh of his playoff career, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Steve Shutt had two goals and an assist as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Islanders 4-0 in New York.
Pavel Bure was the hero for the Canucks on April 30, 1994. He scored twice, including the game-winner in double overtime, to lead the Canucks to a 4-3 win over the Flames, in Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Mike Modano scored a goal to become the Dallas Stars’ all-time leading playoff goal scorer, on April 30, 2000. The milestone came in a 1-0 win over the visiting Sharks, in Game 2 of the Western Conf Semifinals. Modano’s 36th career playoff goal moved him ahead of Steve Payne. His 46 playoff goals are still the franchise’s all-time record.
On April 30, 2013, Alexander Steen scored a shorthanded goal in overtime to lead the Blues past the Kings, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. He stole the puck from goaltender Jonathan Quick and deposited into a wide-open cage to become just the seventh player in Stanley Cup playoff history to score a shorthanded overtime goal.
Happy Birthday to You
In addition to Smith turning 57, there are 28 other current and former players celebrating birthdays today. Among them are Don McKenney (86), Dale Rolfe (80), Jeff Brown (54), Rich Pilon (52), Chris Kreider (29), Kenny Agostino (28) and Timothy Liljegren (21).