April 30 has been a very eventful day in National Hockey League history. An errant pass temporarily derailed a dynasty, multiple epic comebacks were completed, and records were set across the league. Let’s begin our daily trip back in time to relive all the best moments this date has had to offer.
Steve Smith’s Unforgettable Gaffe
Smith played in 804 NHL games on the blue line for 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 back end. 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 come back 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 knock 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 to score one in consecutive games. 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 has 43 playoff goals since 2010, only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals have 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 entered 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 Final. 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 it 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 58, there are 29 other current and former players celebrating birthdays today. Among them are Don McKenney (87), Dale Rolfe (81), Jeff Brown (55), Rich Pilon (53), Chris Kreider (30), Kenny Agostino (29), Sean Malone (26), and Timothy Liljegren (22).
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.