April 25, 1985 Chicago 7, Minnesota 6 2OT
This is the second time in a week that I harken back to this very series as a point of comparison for this years playoffs. In a situation eerily similar to what happened 26 years later, the Minnesota North Stars faced a goaltender dilemma. Watching last night's Game Six of Vancouver vs Chicago and seeing the youngster Corey Schneider start over veteran Roberto Luongo, could very well have brought flash backs for long time Chicago fans. The veteran goalie being forced to return in the third period, and then losing the game in overtime, this is exactly what happened 26 years ago today against Minnesota.
In 1984/85 the Minnesota North Stars faced the Blackhawks in the Norris Division Final after knocking off St.Louis by scores of 3-2, 4-3 and 2-0 on the strength of Gilles Meloche's fine goaltending. Chicago had swept Detroit behind Murray Bannerman and a powerful offense that produced scores of 9-5, 6-1 and 8-2 over the Wings. The North Stars won their fourth in a row in beating the Hawks 8-5 in the opener before falling 6-2 and 5-3 back to back.
In the third game 5-3 loss, 23 year old Don Beaupre replaced 34 year old Gilles Meloche late in the second after the vet allowed 4 goals on 24 shots. North Star coach Glen Sonmor elected to start the youngster in the pivotal fourth game. He regrettably pulled the youngster at the 12:32 mark of the third after Denis Savard tied the game 6-6. Meloche stopped 3 more shots in the third and 8 in the first OT before getting beaten by Darryl Sutter early in the second extra frame.
Sonmor's problems continued in game five as this time starter Meloche was yanked halfway through the game after surrendering 4 goals on 17 shots (see last weeks post http://nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.com/2011/04/biggest-comebacks-in-playoff-history.html ). In this case the youngster bailed out the vet and stopped all 18 shots in Minnesota's historical comeback. It was all for not however as Chicago beat Beaupre and Minny 6-5 in game 6 to take the series 4-2.
April 25, 1985 Edmonton 8, Winnipeg 3
On the same day that Beaupre first started over Meloche, the Oilers easily dispatched of Winnipeg 8-3 to sweep their Smythe Division Final. After Randy Carlyle gave the hometown crowd hope by scoring 53 seconds into the game, Wayne Gretzky took matters into his own hands. He scored two in the first to make it 2-1 Oilers after one and assisted on the next three before the second period was halfway through.
The Jets made it interesting on goals by Robert Picard and Ron Wilson late in the second to close it to 5-3. Wilson, somewhat surprisingly was tops on the Jets that spring with 4 goals in 8 playoff matches as he filled the void of an injured Dale Hawerchuk. Oilers made it 8-3 in the third, the last one on Gretzky's rare Shorthanded/Empty-Net goal at 10:31 of the period as Winnipeg fruitlessly attempted a comeback. The Great One's 7 points are his most in a playoff game and second most all-time. He scored a record 47 points over the 17 playoff games in 1985 and won his first Conn Smythe Trophy.
April 25, 1976 Philadelphia 7, Toronto 3
Exactly 35 years ago today, the two-time defending Cup champ Flyers beat up the Leafs in their quarterfinal seventh game. The Leafs actually held 2-1 lead after one on the highly favoured Flyers. Philly finished second in the NHL with 118 points and the Leafs were barely over .500 with 83 points. Flyers dashed any hope Toronto had as they pumped five goals behind Wayne Thomas in a just over three minute span in the middle of the second. Darryl Sittler, who the game before had 5 goals and an assist was held in check in game seven.