The most-winningest franchise in National Hockey League history had plenty to celebrate on this date throughout the decades. Also, one of the greatest European imports to ever play in the league is celebrating a milestone birthday.
Let’s Hear it For the Habs
This date has been very kind to the Montreal Canadiens over the years. On May 18, 1971, after falling down three games to two, they beat the Chicago Blackhawks, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, to win their 17th championship in franchise history.
The Blackhawks built up a 2-0 lead, midway through the second period, when a Jacques Lemaire shot from center ice found its way behind Tony Esposito and changed the course of the game. Henri Richard tied the game before the end of the middle frame and scored the series-winning goal early in the third period. Goaltender Ken Dryden, who made 12 saves in the final period, was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player of the postseason.
This was also the final NHL game for Jean Beliveau. He finished his final playoff run with 22 points in 20 games. The legendary center played 18 full seasons for the Canadiens, with 10 of them ending in Stanley Cup victories. Beliveau retired with 507 goals and 1219 points in 1125 games.
The Canadiens had their record streak of 11 straight Stanley Cup Final wins snapped on May 18, 1978. The Boston Bruins finally hand the Canadiens a loss by beating them 4-0, in Game 3 of the Final. Goaltender Gerry Cheevers made 16 saves to earn the eighth and final postseason shutout of his career. Montreal’s winning streak began by winning Game 6 of the 1972 Stanley Cup Final, sweeping the championship series in both 1976 and 1977 before winning the first two games against the Bruins in 1978.
On May 18, 1986, Brian Skrudland scored the fastest overtime goal in Stanley Cup Final history. He needed all of nine seconds to beat goaltender Mike Vernon to give the Canadiens a 3-2 win, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Skrudland became the first player since Cy Wentworth, in 1931, to have his first career postseason goal come in overtime of the Stanley Cup Final game.
While one winning streak ended on this date in 1978, another was extended on May 18, 1993. The Canadiens beat the New York Islanders 4-3, in Game 2 of the Wales Conference Final, to win their sixth straight overtime game. Stephen Lebeau scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime as Patrick Roy made 39 saves to secure the victory.
A Trio of Hat Tricks
Wayne Gretzky scored the 10th and final hat trick of his playoff career on May 18, 1997. He scored two quick goals in the first period before adding a third in the middle frame of the New York Rangers’ 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.
In that same game, Gretzky’s former teammate, Flyers defenseman Paul Coffey scored a goal. He joined Larry Murphy as the only defenseman in league history to score playoff goals for five different teams. Prior to this goal, he scored for the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings.
On May 18, 2002, Darren McCarty scored a hat trick, in the third period as the Red Wings won 5-3 against the visiting Colorado Avalanche, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. This was the only hat trick of McCarty’s NHL career, regular season or in the playoffs.
Tyler Johnson scored the first playoff hat trick in Tampa Bay Lightning history on May 18, 2015. It was Johnson’s fourth multi-game game of the 2015 postseason and it led the way in a 6-2 win over the Rangers, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final. He quiets the Madison Square Garden crowd by scoring a full-strength, power-play and a shorthanded goal.
Odd & Ends
On May 18, 1937, the Blackhawks named Bill Stewart as their new head coach, replacing Clem Loughlin. Stewart went on to lead Chicago to a Stanley Cup Championship in the 1937-38 season, something that wouldn’t happen again until 1961.
Bruins Hall of Fame defenseman Bobby Orr collected more hardware on May 18, 1973. He was awarded the Norris Trophy, for being the league’s best defenseman, for the sixth straight season. He finished the 1972-73 season with 29 goals and 101 points, 47 points more than the second-highest scoring blueliner.
Bobby Clarke scored a goal and an assist, on May 18, 1975, to lead the Flyers to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. This came after he scored a goal and added two assists in the series opener.
The Oilers and Bruins opened up the 1988 Stanley Cup Final, on this date, in Edmonton. Defenseman Steve Smith had a goal and an assist in the Oilers’ 2-1 victory.
On May 18, 1992, Chris Chelios tied a playoff record with three assists in one period, as the Blackhawks won 4-2 over the Oilers, in Game 2 of the Campbell Conference Final. The win gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead in the series and set a team record with nine straight playoff victories.
Dimitri Mironov became the first Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman since Sid Smith in 1949 to score two power-play goals in one playoff period, On May 18, 1994. However, the Maple Leafs lost 4-3 to the visiting Vancouver Canucks, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.
One year later, Penguins’ goalie Ken Wregget stopped 33 shots to record a 3-0 shutout of the visiting Washington Capitals, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. It was the third and final shutout of Wregget’s playoff career.
Geoff Sanderson had two assists, on May 18, 199, to lead the Sabres to a 3-2 win against visiting Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The win moved the Sabres onto the Eastern Conference Final, where they faced the Maple Leafs.
On May 18, 1999, Patrick Roy extended his playoff record with his 107th victory as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Red Wings 5-2, in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Peter Forsberg scored twice to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions from the playoffs. In the losing effort, Detroit’s Larry Murphy became the eighth player in NHL history to appear in 200 career playoff games.
Happy Birthday to You
There are 31 current and former NHL players who were born on this date. Among them is Hall of Famer Jari Kurri, who turns 60 today. The Finnish-born winger was a huge part of the Oilers Stanley Cup dynasty in the 1980s. He also spent time with the Kings, Rangers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Avalanche.
Kurri scored 601 career goals, just one of 20 players in the 600-goal club. His 1,398 career points have him 21st on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. He excelled in the postseason, where he scored 233 points, the third-most in league history.
He celebrated his 30th birthday, on May 18, 1990, by scoring a hat trick and picking up two assists in an Oilers’ 7-2 win over the Bruins, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. His performance made him the second player ever to score 200 playoff points and briefly made him the all-time leader in that category.
Other birthday boys include Jay Wells (61), Jim Fox (60), Brent Ashton (60), Marty McSorley (57), Turner Stevenson (48), Oleg Tverdovsky (44), Manny Malhotra (40) and Chris Driedger (26).