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In the annals of hockey, and the NHL, there have been some truly incredible matches. Some are known for individual incidents, others for great team performances. Picking the best is always going to be a difficult task, every fan has their own personal favourites, but we’ve combed the history books to compile our list of the best NHL games of all time.
#5. Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars: Semi-Final Game 1 (April 24th, 2003)
We kick start our list of the best NHL matches with the famous semi final between the Ducks and the Stars. The Stars were heavy favourites and most expected them to go onto the final.
The two teams battled it out through 140 minutes of play and no less than four overtimes, before Anaheim’s Petr Sykora became the hero of the day by scoring 47 seconds into the 5th and final overtime.
The game eventually finished 4-3, after the 4th longest playoff in NHL history and send the underdogs into the next round.
Dallas keeper Marty Turco fended off no less than 54 shots during the match, while Jean Giguere in the Ducks goal saw 63!
#4. Calgary vs. Tampa Bay: Stanley Cup Final, Game 6 (June 5th, 2004)
This game is famous for the highly controversial disallowed goal by Martin Gelinas, that would have tipped the game in favour of Calgary. It was ruled that the puck had hit Gelinas’ skate and therefore was a foul play.
Later video analysis by a CGI company in Calgary, Alberta showed the goal to be legitimate; while an investigation by ABC television showed that the puck never fully crossed the line, after Tampa keeper Nokolai Khabibulin’s bundled it out.
No retrospective action was taken.
The game was 2-2 after the second period with two goals from Brad Richards for Tampa Bay Lightning, and one each from Clark and Nilson for the Calgary flames.
Going into overtime, Calgary needed just one to clinch the Stanley Cup, but Game 6 of the finals was eventually decided by Martin St. Louis, scoring a late goal to give Tampa the victory, and cement this matches’ place in the history books as one of the best NHL matches ever.
#3. Buffalo Sabres vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Winter Classic (January 1st, 2008)
Now known colloquially as the “Ice Bowl” by fans of both sides, the game presented extremely difficult conditions thanks to the flurries of icy snow.
Despite this the game remains the best the pinnacle of the event, with 62 shots registered over the 3 periods. The game ended with Sidney Crosby smashing home the winner in the final shootout to claim a victory for the Penguins, despite the Sabres leading in for much of the game.
The huge success of the Winter Classic, which was the first outdoor professional ice hockey game to be played on American soil, helped set a precedent for more outdoor events, and has made the Winter Classic an NHL tradition.
The 71,000 attendance was also a record breaker, with many more fans watching live in front of giant screens.
#2. Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Stanley Cup Final, Game 5 (June 2nd, 2008)
Pittsburgh took an early lead in this legendary Stanley Cup final outing, with two goals from Marian Hossa and Adam Hall in the first period.
The Red Wings were not down and out however, bouncing back in the second period with goals from Helm, Datsyuk and Rafalski. The game looked to be going to Detroit before Maxime Talbot netted a huge goal in the dying seconds of play, forcing the tie into overtime.
The game was goalless in both period 1 and 2 of overtime, and went into a 3rd. The players were growing increasingly exhausted, before Petr Sykora scored the winning goal of the Penguins in a dramatic finale.
The triple overtime was noted as the 5th longest in the entire history of the Stanley Cup final, and the Penguins became the first team in NHL history to have three overtime power plays in the final.
As testament to the attacking ferrocity of both teams, goalkeepers Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh) and Chris Osgood (Detroit) blocked 55 and 28 shots respectively.
#1. Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Stanley Cup Final, Game 7 (June 12th, 2009)
Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup finals is regarded by many as the best NHL games of all time.
The Pittsburgh Penguins because the first team since the Montreal Canadiens to win the 7th game of the final on the road, and Pittsburgh player Evgeni Malkin was voted the 2009 MVP after this match and lifted the Conn Smythe Trophy, the first Russian-born player to ever do this.
Max Talbot of Pittsburgh scored two huge goals to secure victory, both coming in the second period. The action peaked in the final minutes with Nicklas Lidstrom almost levelling the game, but was denied by a great save from Penguins goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury, who had also blocked Kirk Maltby’s point blank range shot in the opening period.
The game was noted for its high energy end to end play, and jubilant scenes from the Penguins at the end, who mobbed Fleury.
For more NHL trivia, find out which of the Best Hockey Players of All Time has made it onto our list.