There’s no better ending in all sports than sudden-death overtime and the Stanley Cup Playoffs always provide the best, most dramatic endings with some iconic memorable goals. However, a series ending with an overtime-winning goal is rare and when they occur, the moments are special, to say the least. How rare are Game 7 overtime winners? Well historically, they are frequent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but have only happened a few times in the Stanley Cup Final.
The First Game 7 Overtime Game-Winner
Before the Stanley Cup Final in 1939, the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers played in a neck-and-neck Semifinal Series. The series was so tight that four games required overtime and five games were decided by one goal. Additionally, Game 7 required three overtime periods to decide which team would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The goal scorer of the game-winner was an unlikely hero but one that stepped up in the clutch and helped the Bruins not only win the series but the Stanley Cup as well.
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Mel Hill scored 10 goals in the 1938-39 season with the Bruins, ninth most on the team. However, he was playing at another level in the playoffs, scoring six goals which along with future Hall of Famer Roy Conacher was the most on the team. Hill interestingly had a knack for finding the back of the net in overtime in the playoffs. His three career overtime-winning goals are tied with Brad Marchand for the second-most in Bruins’ franchise history (Patrice Bergeron has the most with four playoff overtime goals).
In the third overtime of the final game of the Semifinal series, Hill found the back of the net to walk off the series and send the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final, where they’d go on to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a five-game series. The goal was the first big moment in a respectable nine-year career but in his second year in the NHL, he was the surprise player that ended Game 7 with his overtime goal. The unexpected player stepping up and scoring in big moments would become a theme throughout playoff history and Game 7 game-winning goal history.
The Stanley Cup Game 7 Game-Winners
The NHL has played the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final formats since 1939 as part of the incredible 125-year history of the most famous trophy in sports. However, despite the multiple matchups, there have only been 17 Game 7’s, and only two of them have ended with a sudden-death overtime-winning goal.
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The first Game 7 game-winner was in the 1950 Stanley Cup Final. The Detroit Red Wings, who interestingly enough advanced to the Final by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-game series with a 1-0 overtime win, faced the Rangers in a back-and-forth series. In Game 7, with Sid Abel scoring his fifth goal of the series to lead all skaters, the score was tied 3-3 and the two teams went to double overtime before the game-winner was scored by the most unexpected player on the Red Wings.
Red Wings forward Pete Babando only scored six goals and six assists in his one season with the team, and his 12 regular season points were 15th on the roster. He was a depth player but with both teams exhausted in overtime, he stepped up and fired a shot past Rangers goaltender Chuck Rayner for his second goal of the game but more importantly, the goal that ended the game and the series. Babando scored the most significant goal of the Red Wings’ season as it allowed them to lift the Cup but it would be his final big moment with the team. In the 1950 offseason, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks where he’d spend his next two and a half seasons before retiring with the Rangers in 1953.
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The 1950 Stanley Cup Final was the first to end with a sudden-death overtime winner and it helped launch a Red Wings dynasty that won four titles in six years. The next Game 7 game-winner would come from that Red Wings dynasty as well only four years later.
The Red Wings faced the Montreal Canadiens in 1954 in a series that went the distance to force a Game 7 at Olympia Stadium. In a 1-1 defensive battle, Red Wings forward Tony Leswick fired a shot at the blue line past Canadiens goaltender Gerry McNeil to score his only goal of the series but notably break the tie and win the Stanley Cup. Unlike Babando, who came out of nowhere to score the sudden death Game 7 goal in 1950, Leswick’s goal capped off a memorable 12-year career in the NHL. At 30 years old, he established himself as a two-way forward and a reliable contributor on a star-studded team that had Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, and six other Hall of Famers on it. His goal put a bow on a strong career and put him in a unique place in NHL history as he became the second player to score a Game 7 sudden-death overtime goal.
Since 1954, the Stanley Cup Final hasn’t been decided by a sudden-death overtime goal, despite multiple Game 7s and many memorable moments. While Bobby Orr’s flying goal, arguably the most famous goal in NHL history was scored in overtime, the goal was scored in Game 4, allowing the Boston Bruins to complete the sweep to win the Cup. In 1994, the Rangers snapped their 53-year title drought with a dramatic 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks where they held the one-goal lead throughout the third and final period of play. Likewise, in 2004, the Lightning held on to a 2-1 lead over the Flames to cliche their first title in franchise history. Even in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, where the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Red Wings 2-1 despite playing the third period without Sidney Crosby, the game-winning goal was scored in the second period by Maxime Talbot.
There’s no better ending than a sudden-death game-winning goal but since 1954, the Stanley Cup Final hasn’t been decided with the best possible ending. While it has become a rarity for the Final, there have been a few Game 7 sudden-death overtime goals in the Stanley Cup Semifinals that have provided fans with some memorable goals even recently.
Semifinal Game 7 OT Winners
Following the 1954 sudden-death game-winner, hockey fans had to wait 14 years until the next series to be decided in sudden-death overtime. Interestingly, the goal came in the first year of NHL expansion which saw the league go from six teams to 12, creating more playoff rounds as a result. In the 1968 West Division Final, the St. Louis Blues beat the Minnesota North Stars 2-1 in double overtime behind forward Ron Schock’s first and only goal of the series. While the win was dramatic, it didn’t help the Blues win the Stanley Cup, as they were easily swept by the Canadiens, starting a streak of three consecutive losses in the Stanley Cup Final.
The late 1970s Canadiens are often referred to as one of the best teams in NHL history, winning the Stanley Cup four years in a row led by Hall of Fame players Guy Lafleur, Serge Savard, and Ken Dryden. In 1979, they needed all seven games to defeat the rival Bruins in the Semifinal series featuring a Game 7 that had four third-period goals to tie the game 4-4. In overtime, Yvon Lambert found the puck in front of the net to send the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final in front of an ecstatic crowd at the Montreal Forum. The game-winner from Lambert allowed the team to defeat the Rangers in five games to cap off the dynasty.
Many fans know about Mark Messier’s famous guarantee in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final that the Rangers would win Game 6 to force a Game 7 against the rival New Jersey Devils. However, Game 7 was decided by a rare sudden-death overtime winner. In a 1-1 goaltending duel, where Martin Brodeur and Mike Richter combined to make 76 saves, Rangers forward Stephane Matteau skated behind the net and wrapped in the game-winning goal in double overtime.
The 2014 Western Conference Final saw the two teams of the decade face off with the right to return to the Final. The Blackhawks hosted the Los Angeles Kings in a seventh game that saw both offenses erupt, scoring four goals each in regulation. Six minutes into the overtime period, defenseman Alec Martinez flipped the puck on the net from the point and it zipped by goaltender Corey Crawford to end the series. The Kings would win the Stanley Cup in a five-game series with Martinez being the hero in the final game as well, scoring the overtime winner to give the team their second title in three years. The loss stung for the Blackhawks but they won the Cup the next year to wrap up a modern dynasty, winning three titles in six years.
The next and most recent Semifinal series to end with a sudden-death overtime goal was the Eastern Conference Final in 2017. In a 2-2 Game 7 that went to double overtime between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, Chris Kunitz took a quick Crosby pass and sent the puck to the top shelf to end the game and series. The Kunitz goal allowed the Penguins to reach their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final where they ended up defeating the Nashville Predators in six games.
New Century = More Walk-Off Goals
By the time the 2000-01 NHL season started, the league had expanded to 30 teams. With the expansion came longer seasons, longer playoffs, and more games that would require overtime. Since the 2001 playoffs, there have been 21 Game 7 overtime-winning goals most of which have come in the First or Second Round.
In the 2000-01 Eastern Conference Semifinal, the Penguins faced the Buffalo Sabres in a series where both Game 5 and Game 6 were decided in overtime. Game 7 was no exception with both teams locked in a 2-2 tie. The game was decided by one of the best defensemen on the Penguins but not a goal scorer in the slightest. Darius Kasparaitis scored three goals in 77 games that season and in his career, he only scored two goals in the playoffs. However, one of them was the overtime winner as he stepped up on the rush and shot the puck past Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek. Kasparaitis sent the team to the Eastern Conference Final but they ran into a wall in the New Jersey Devils, who beat them in a short five-game series.
The Penguins couldn’t defeat the team of the early 2000s but Andrew Brunette’s overtime-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2003 Quarterfinal allowed the Minnesota Wild to defeat the Avalanche, the other team of the early decade. The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001 and had the roster to win another a few years later. However, in Game 7 on their home ice, they were stunned by the Wild, a team that had only been in existence for three years. Brunette found a breakaway scoring chance and slipped the puck around Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy for a stunning overtime goal. The goal helped carry the team to the Western Conference Final but unfortunately, they ran out of gas, getting swept by the Anaheim Ducks.
One year later, the Calgary Flames scored a Game 7 goal that would propel them to one of their great Cup runs in franchise history. Facing the Vancouver Canucks in the Quarterfinals, a 2-2 game went to overtime and on the power play, Martin Gelinas collected a loose puck near the net to end the series. Gelinas was an unsung hero of that team, scoring 17 goals in the season and eight goals in the playoffs as a veteran presence on the left wing. The goal allowed the Flames to advance to the next round and they’d ultimately reach the Stanley Cup Final where they’d lose to the Lightning in a hard-fought seven-game series.
The next such goal would come four years later in the 2008 Quarterfinal series between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers. In a game that featured Alexander Ovechkin, Daniel Briere, and plenty of star power, it was journeyman Joffrey Lupul, who would play on four teams in 12 years, who scored the game-winner. A shot from the point provided a juicy rebound and Lupul put the puck into the net to advance to the next round. The goal helped the Flyers reach the next round and subsequently, the Eastern Conference Final but they bumped into a well-oiled machine in the Penguins, who defeated them in a five-game series.
The Hurricanes faced a similar predicament to the Flyers the next year. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, they faced the Boston Bruins and on the road, Scott Walker scored in overtime his first playoff goal to end the series in seven games. The Hurricanes upset the Bruins but in the Eastern Conference Final, they faced a Penguins team that was on a mission to win the Stanley Cup after a devastating defeat the year before. The Penguins won the series in a sweep and then defeated the Red Wings in the Final in a dramatic seven-game series.
The Canucks 2011 playoff run ended in heartbreaking fashion but was one to remember as it featured a dominant team and multiple dramatic games. The most intense game came in the Quarterfinals as they hosted the defending champion Blackhawks for Game 7 in a 1-1 goaltending duel between Roberto Luongo and Blackhawks goaltender Crawford. Alexandre Burrows scored the only goal in regulation for the Canucks but his highlight goal came in overtime. He stole the puck in the offensive zone and with a slapshot, found the back of the net to end the series and send the Rogers Arena Crowd into a frenzy.
The next night, the team that would beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final scored their own Game 7 game-winning goal. The Bruins went back and forth with the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-3 game before Nathan Horton scored the series-clincher. Horton scored 26 goals that year, second-most on the team but his most important goal came in the Quarterfinal series against the Canadiens with a slapshot from the point that fueled the team’s playoff run. The Bruins would go on to win the Stanley Cup in a seven-game series against the Canucks, winning their first title since 1972.
The Bruins hope for a repeat of squashed in the same round Horton scored his overtime goal. In the 2012 Quarterfinal, the Capitals knocked off the reigning champs with an overtime goal of their own in Game 7. Just under three minutes into overtime, Joel Ward scored his first goal of the playoffs to end the series. Interestingly, the next night would also have a Game 7 game-winner but unlike the Capitals, the team that scored the goal went on to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
The Devils faced the Florida Panthers in the Quarterfinal series and after Game 6 went to overtime, the final game of the series went to double overtime. 21-year-old Adam Henrique, who would become a pivotal part of the playoff run, collected a bouncing puck in the offensive zone and fired it into the net for his second goal of the game. The Devils would then sweep the Flyers in the next round and in a six-game series against the rival New York Rangers, Henrique would score the overtime-winning goal to send them to the Stanley Cup Final.
The next goal would be a dagger to the hearts of Maple Leafs’ fans. The Bruins trailed in the 2013 Game 7 Quarterfinal 4-1 in the third period but three unanswered goals tied the game 4-4 and prevented the Maple Leafs from advancing in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. In overtime, Bergeron found a juicy rebound off a Tyler Seguin shot and shot the puck past a sprawling James Reimer to end the game and the series. The Bruins would reach the Stanley Cup Final and lose to the Blackhawks in a six-game series while their Original Six rival would continue to suffer heartbreak after heartbreak in the first round.
While many forwards have scored the sudden-death game-winners, Brent Seabrook is one of the few defensemen to score a series-clinching goal with his goal in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinal. With the Chicago Blackhawks knotted up at one goal apiece with the Red Wings in Game 7, Seabrook carried the puck into the offensive zone and fired a quick wrister past goaltender Jimmy Howard. The goal sent the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final, where they ultimately defeated the Bruins in six games.
Almost 11 years to the day that Brunette scored the walk-off goal against the Avalanche, Nino Niederrieter scored a Game 7 overtime goal to give the Wild a 5-4 win and allow them to advance to the Second Round. The goal had uncanny similarities to Brunette’s in 2003 as it came in overtime, in the same arena (Pepsi Center), on an odd-man rush, in the first round of the playoffs. Niederreiter’s wrist shot slipped past Semyon Varlamov’s glove and left the crowd stunned as the Wild ended the series.
The cap off years of tough luck, the Capitals faced the Rangers in the Second Round in 2015 and built a 3-1 series lead. The Rangers battled back with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 5 and a 4-3 win in Game 6 to force a winner-take-all game. In the series finale, Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby were locked into a 1-1 goaltending duel with both making over 35 saves in the game. Finally, a Dan Girardi shot bounced off Holtby and right to Derek Stepan who quickly fired the puck into the net to end the series and send the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final.
The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs were unusual for a multitude of reasons. The Lightning, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with a 62-16-4 record were swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets while the Blues won their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history with one of the greatest midseason turnarounds in sports history. However, one of the unique elements of the 2019 playoffs was that three matchups ended with Game 7 overtime winners, two of which were on back-to-back nights.
The San Jose Sharks already came back from a 3-1 series deficit to force Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights but the game itself was one of the most memorable in recent years. Trailing 3-0 in the third-period veteran skater Joe Pavelski took a hit that gave the Sharks a five-minute major power play, in which they scored four goals before the game ended up going to overtime tied 4-4. In overtime, Barclay Goodrow sniped the game-winner past Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to complete the comeback in both the game and the series.
The following night, the Hurricanes faced a Capitals team that was at home and looking to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. In a 3-3 game that went to double overtime, Justin Williams who was known as “Mr. Game 7“, fired a puck on the net that Brock McGinn redirected to help the Hurricanes pull off the series upset and silence the Capitals crowd in the process. The upset also added to the oddity of the 2019 playoffs with the four top-seeded teams eliminated in the first round.
After the two first-round sudden-death series winners, the second round provided an overtime Game 7 that helped propel the winner to the Western Conference Final and eventually win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Blues and Dallas Stars were locked in a 1-1 game that went to double overtime but a Robert Thomas shot sent Stars goaltender Ben Bishop sprawling for the puck, allowing Pat Maroon to tap in the game-winning goal. The goal kickstarted a remarkable run in the playoffs for Maroon as he not only won the Stanley Cup that year but the next two years as well playing for the Lightning.
The 2020 Bubble (Stars-Avalanche)
The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will always be remembered for being a one-of-a-kind as it was played in an empty Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and Rogers Place in Edmonton because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Stars and Colorado Avalanche played a back-and-forth Game 7, which appropriately decided a back-and-forth second-round series. In a 4-4 game, the Stars controlled the puck in the offensive zone and Joel Kiviranta found an open shot in the slot to not only complete a hat trick in the game but end the series.
The goal helped propel the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final but their luck would run out after that. They lost to the Lightning in six games in the Final, missed the playoffs the next season, and were a wild card team in the 2021-22 season. The decline from being a borderline Cup contender to a middling team in the Western Conference forced head coach Rick Bowness to step down and the front office to tweak the roster. The Avalanche on the other hand used the rough defeat as fuel. After losing to the Stars in Game 7 in overtime and to the Golden Knights the next year, they went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2022 and the playoff heartbreak helped fuel a run where they went 16-4 to win the title.
2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs
On May 15, 2022, hockey fans were treated to two great, memorable Game 7 first-round matchups. The Rangers defeated the Penguins 4-3, while the Flames defeated the Stars 3-2. It was the first time since 1997 that two Game 7’s went into overtime on the same night, making it arguably one of the most memorable nights for fans in recent years.
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The first game-winner was only possible because the Rangers battle back from a 3-1 deficit, forcing a winner-take-all game at Madison Square Garden. Trailing 3-2 with five minutes left in the game, Mika Zibanejad scored the game-tying goal to force overtime. Under five minutes into the extra period, Artemi Panarin, known for his passing skills, shot the puck past Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry to end the series. The goal allowed the Rangers to reach the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2015 but they were no match for the Lightning, who beat them in a six-game series.
The second overtime winner that night was unfortunately the one bright moment for the Flames. Johnny Gaudreau scored the goal to allow them to beat the Stars in the series in what became his last great moment with the franchise. Unfortunately, the team lost to the Oilers in the next round in a five-game series. Then the Flames spiraled downward as Gaudreau left in free agency and the team missed the playoff the next season, resulting in both the general manager (GM) Brad Treliving and head coach Darryl Sutter being fired.
2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The Bruins ended the 2022-23 season with the best record in the NHL and arguably the great regular season in league history going 65-12-5 to win the Presidents’ Trophy. After building a 3-1 series lead in the First Round, they looked poised to advance and become the first team since the 2007-08 Red Wings to finish an 82-game season with the best record and win the Cup.
The Panthers had other plans. They not only battled back in Game 5 to steal the game on the road with an overtime victory but then won Game 6 to force a winner-take-all game at TD Garden on Sunday, April 30th. Trailing 3-2 in the final minute of the game, defenseman Brandon Montour, who scored earlier in the game fired the puck to the back of the net to force overtime.
Despite squandering a late lead, history was still on the Bruins’ side. They had four Game 7 overtime-winning goals in their franchise history, the Panthers had none. However, in the overtime period, Carter Verhaeghe, who scored 42 goals that season but only one in the series, shot the puck to the top shelf and past goaltender Jeremy Swayman to win the game 4-3. The goal left the Bruins, the home crowd, and hockey fans at large stunned as the Panthers completed one of the greatest upsets in NHL history.
Other Game 7 Overtime Game-Winning Goals
There have been 48 total goals that were in sudden-death overtime in Games 7’s. The 25 mentioned above were either in the Final, Seminal, or the past 23 years. The other Game 7 overtime winners were in the First Round or Second Round of the playoffs with some goals simply being a shining moment while others helped fuel deep playoff runs.
In order for Babando to score his Stanley Cup Final game-winner, the Red Wings needed to reach the Final first. They did so in a low-scoring duel against the Maple Leafs where Leo Reise, who scored only five goals to that point in the season and only 36 in his career, scored the first and only goal of the game.
The Blues and North Stars were locked in a 1-1 game and forward Kevin O’Shea of all skaters was the one to end the game and the series. O’Shea played in only four regular season games with the Blues after he was waived by the Buffalo Sabres that year but he stepped up and scored the series-clinching goal. It didn’t help the team make a run unfortunately as they were swept by the Bruins in the next round (a common theme of the 1970s for both franchises).
The Maple Leafs’ stars stepped up when it mattered most in the early-round series against the New York Islanders. Lanny McDonald, who led the team with 47 goals that year and would go on to have a Hall-of-Fame career, scored the game-winner with a nifty move to create an open shot and slip the puck past goaltender Mike Palmateer. The Maple Leafs were swept by the Canadiens in the next round while the Islanders would go on to win the Stanley Cup two years later as part of a run where they won four consecutive titles.
80s OT Winners
1983 Adams Division Finals
The Bruins trailed 2-0 in Game 7 to the Sabres but two goals in the second period, including one by Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park forced the game into overtime. After scoring the game-tying goal, the 34-year-old Park scored the goal in overtime to complete the comeback. The goal capped off a remarkable career but unfortunately, the Bruins ran into the dynasty of the era in the next round, losing to the Islanders in a six-game series.
1984 Norris Division Finals
The North Stars and the Blues were once again facing one another in a seven-game series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This time, the North Stars came out on top with a Steve Payne goal to send them to the next round with a 4-3 victory. They bumped into the team of the future as the Oilers swept them in the next round on their way to their first of five Cup titles in the decade.
1985 Adams Division Finals
Peter Stastny was one of the greatest players in NHL history and he put an exclamation point on a 100-point season with his overtime winner, allowing the Quebec Nordiques to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. The Nordiques lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the next round but the goal was a bookmark in a great career for Stastny, who scored 33 more playoff goals and would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.
1986 Adam Division Finals
In the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup run, 20-year-old forward Claude Lemieux was one of the best skaters during the playoffs. He scored 10 goals and six assists including the game-winning goal against the Hartford Whalers to help the Canadiens win their 22nd title in franchise history. It was his first of many successful playoff runs for Lemieux as he’d score 80 goals and 78 assists in 234 career playoff games while winning the Cup four times.
1987 Patrick Division Semifinals
The game known as the “Easter Epic” took four overtime periods to decide a series winner but after 128 minutes, the Islanders defeated the Capitals. Hall of Fame center Pat LaFontaine was the hero of the marathon game as he hit the inside of the post to net the 3-2 game-winner in a game that started on Saturday night and ended Sunday morning.
1988 Patrick Division Semifinals
After the Capitals were on the wrong end of the “Easter Epic” they bounced back the next year against the Flyers. Down 3-1 in the series, they forced a Game 7, and then in the deciding game, they came back from a 3-0 deficit to force overtime at four goals apiece. Dale Hunter, who scored the team’s third period goal, scored the series-winning goal. Hunter scored three overtime-winning goals in the playoffs with the Quebec Nordiques earlier in his career but his first with the Capitals sent them to the next round.
1989 Smythe Division Semifinal
The Flames had a year to remember when they won their first and only Stanley Cup title in franchise history. In the first matchup in the playoffs, they were on the brink of elimination as they went to overtime with a 3-3 tie against the Canucks in Game 7. Fortunately, center Joel Otto, who was a reliable contributor to the offense all season, stepped up and score the game-winner. The rest is history as the Flames scorched past the rest of the competition to win the Cup, defeating the Canadiens in a six-game series.
90s OT Winners
1991 Smythe Division Semifinals
The Battle of Alberta lived up to the hype! The Flames and Edmonton Oilers played in a back-and-forth series and Game 7 was no exception. The Flames took a 3-0 lead then the Oilers came storming back with four unanswered goals and held the lead until the final 2:10 of regulation when Ronnie Stern scored the game-tying goal to force overtime. The hero was Edmonton’s leading scorer and often overlooked icon Esa Tikkanen, who scored the game-winner and the hat trick to end the series.
1992 Adam Division Semifinals
Russ Courtnall only scored seven goals in the 1991-92 season and one goal in the playoffs. However, his one goal allowed the Canadiens to defeat the Whalers 3-2 in Game 7 in a double-overtime game.
1993 Norris Division Semifinals
Before the Red Wings became the team of the late 1990s they had to go through some heartbreak. In Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, Nikolai Borschevsky, who scored a team-leading 34 goals that season, re-directed a Bob Rouse shot from the point into the back of the net to end the game just 2:35 into overtime. The Maple Leafs would lose in the Western Conference Finals to the Los Angeles Kings in a seven-game series (for five years, they were in the Western Conference a weird but interesting part of the team’s history). The Red Wings meanwhile used the rough defeat as fuel and the core players, specifically Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, and Sergei Federov, would bounce back later in the decade to win multiple Cup titles.
1993 Patrick Division Finals
The Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992 and looked poised to make another run at the Cup. However, the Islanders not only gave them a hard-fought series but upset them on their home ice in overtime of the decisive game. The Islanders’ hero was David Volek a forward who scored eight goals all season but two in the 4-3 Game 7 victory.
1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals
Five years after the Flames put a dagger into the hearts of Canucks’ fans, they got their revenge. It came off the stick of Hall of Famer Pavel Bure as he scored his two goals in a 4-3 victory in Game 7, including the game-winner in double-overtime. The goal kickstarted the Canucks remarkable playoff run that saw them reach the Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Rangers in a memorable seven-game series.
1995 Western Conference Quarterfinals
The theme of the series between the Flames and Sharks was goals, goals, and more goals as the two teams combined for 61 goals. Game 7 was another high-scoring game with Ray Whitney scoring the game-winner in double overtime to give the Sharks a 5-4 victory. Whitney was 22 years old and in his fourth year in the NHL when he scored the overtime winner and while his goal didn’t result in a Stanley Cup title, he’d eventually hoist the Cup 11 years later playing for the Hurricanes.
1996 Western Conference Semifinals
The Red Wings and Blues were locked into a scoreless defensive battle. A Game 7 that featured Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Fedorov, and 10 other Hall of Famers, the defense, showcased by Lidstrom and Chris Pronger, was in control until the end. After 81:15 minutes of scoreless hockey, Yzerman fired a slapshot from the blue line to score his team-leading sixth goal of the series and allow the Red Wings to advance to the next round.
1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
The Sabres and Senators entered the playoffs as two of the young, up-and-coming teams in the NHL. The series went the distance and in a 2-2 game, Derek Plante was the difference maker, scoring the game-tying goal in the third period to force the game to overtime and then scoring the game-winner.
1997 Western Conference Quarterfinals
The same night that the Sabres won with a Game 7 overtime-winning goal, the Oilers edged the Stars in a 4-3 game courtesy of a Todd Marchant goal. The fast-skating Marchant gained an edge on the Stars’ defense and went to the top shelf for the game-winner to send the Oilers to the next round. Interestingly, the Stars, who lost the game would go on to win the Stanley Cup two years later against the Sabres, the other team that scored the Game 7 game-winner that night.
1999 Western Conference Quarterfinals
In a scoreless duel between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Blues, Pierre Turgeon had the perfect deflection on a Ricard Persson shot, giving the Blues a 1-0 overtime victory. The Game 7 win propelled them to the next round but the momentum didn’t last long as they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion in the Stars.
The optimal ending in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a game-winning goal in overtime. While overtime winners are common, seeing a series end decided with an overtime winner is a rare occurrence but one that makes playoff hockey special. The intensity, the execution, and the reaction to the goals are what make the game as breathtaking as it is.