On this date, Mother Nature made her presence felt during one of the most memorable games in National Hockey League history. Also, there was plenty of overtime drama and some coaches that were in need of updating their resumes.
Turn Off the Fog Machine
The Buffalo Sabres hosted their first-ever Stanley Cup Final game on May 20, 1975. This should have been a memorable night on its own, but it became one of the most memorable games in quite some time. The combination of a hot and humid night outside and no air conditioning inside of the Memorial Auditorium caused a thick fog to rise from the playing surface.
The conditions made it impossible to play at times and the game was stopped on multiple occasions to have all the players skate around to try to break up the fog.
The game headed to overtime tied at 4-4, where play was stopped seven different times because of the fog. Finally, at the 18:29 mark, Rene Robert beat goaltender Bernie Parent to give the Sabres a 5-4 victory. They went on to win Game 4 to even the series at 2-2 before ultimately losing to the Flyers in six games.
The Chicago Blackhawks tied an NHL playoff record on May 20, 1992. Jeremy Roenick scored early in overtime to beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3, in Game 3 of the Campbell Conference Final. The Blackhawks erased an early 2-0 deficit to win their 10th straight game of the postseason. They tied the record for the most consecutive wins in a single postseason set by the 1970 Boston Bruins.
One year later, the Montreal Canadiens set the NHL record for most consecutive overtime playoff wins. Guy Carbonneau’s overtime goal beat the New York Islanders 2-1, on May 20, 1992, in Game 3 of the Wales Conference Final. Vincent Damphousse scored late in regulation to force overtime as the Canadiens took a 3-0 stranglehold on the series.
On May 20, 2002, Chris Drury scored at 2:17 of overtime, the 10th playoff game-winning goal of his career and the third in overtime, as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Detroit Red Wings, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.
A pair of Red Wings made history in the losing effort. Chris Chelios became the first U.S.-born player to play in 200 Stanley Cup playoff games and Steve Yzerman became just the second player in franchise history to have 100 postseason assists.
The Red Wings were on the losing end of another overtime game on May 20, 2007. This time, the Anaheim Ducks stunned the sold-out crowd at the Joe Louis Arena with a 2-1 overtime victory, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. Scott Niedermayer tied the game with just 48 seconds left in regulation before Teemu Selanne gives the Ducks a 3-2 series lead with an unassisted goal in the extra time.
Threes were wild on May 20, 2015, at the Amalie Arena. Nikita Kucherov scored at 3:33 of overtime time to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 6-5 victory over the New York Rangers, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning grabbed a 2-1 series advantage with the goal.
The Coaching Carousel
On May 20, 1966, Wren Blair was named the general manager of the expansion Minnesota North Stars, a year and a half before their first NHL game. Blair later was also named their first head coach.
The Flyers fired head coach Terry Simpson, on May 20, 1994, after one season behind the team’s bench. He is eventually replaced by Terry Murray, who takes the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 1997.
Speaking of 1997, on May 20, 1997, Ron Wilson was fired by the Ducks. He had been the team’s head coach for the team’s first four NHL seasons. Pierre Page became the team’s second head coach, but he only lasts one season behind the bench.
Odds & Ends
The final game in the history of the World Hockey Association was played on May 20, 1979. The Winnipeg beat the Oilers 7-3 to win the Avco Cup. The Oilers’ Dave Semenko scored the final goal in the history of the WHA.
On May 20, 1988, Wayne Gretzky scored a goal and added two assists to lead the Oilers to a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Gretzky scored three goals and 13 points in the Oilers’ eventual five-game series victory over the Bruins.
Kirk McLean recorded his fifth career playoff shutout, on May 20, 1994, to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in, in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. Pavel Bure scored a pair of goals to lead the offensive charge.
Eric Lindros led the way for the Flyers on May 20, 1997, with the first and only playoff hat trick of his career. His three goals came in a 6-3 win over the Rangers, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
On May 20, 2000, current St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube scored the game-winning goal it the Flyers’ 3-1 win at New Jersey Devils, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final. His goal came with just seven minutes left in the third period and his just third goal in 86 playoff games.
The Vegas Golden Knight became the first team since the 1967-68 Blues to make the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season on May 20, 2018. Ryan Reaves scored the game-winning goal on a 2-1 victory over the Jets, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. Marc-Andre Fleury became the first goaltender ever to reach the Final in consecutive seasons with two different teams.
The Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Final was more impressive than the Blues. For the 1967-68 season, all six expansion teams were all in the West Division, so it was guaranteed that one of them would make the Championship series. At the start of the 2017-18 season, very few people picked Vegas to even make the playoffs, let alone make all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Happy Birthday to You
In all major sports cities, you have players that go beyond being just a star, they become sports royalty. That is the case with Stan Mikita, who was born on this date in 1940, in Chicago. He became a beloved member of the community because of his play on the ice and the great human being he was off of it.
Mikita is still the Blackhawks franchise leader with 926 assists and 1,467 points. He is second to only Bobby Hull with 541 goals. He was a four-time Art Ross Trophy winner and won the Hart and Lady Bing Trophies twice in his Hall of Fame career. The eight-time All-Star was a key member of the Blackhawks 1961 Stanley Cup championship team.
Other notable players celebrating birthdays today include Craig Patrick (74), Stu Grimson (55), Bruce Cassidy (55), Jason York (50), Vesa Toskala (43), Kevin Roy (27) and Jacob de La Rose (25).