Commentary

The best overtime playoff games of all time

Updated: May 5, 2008, 3:02 AM ET
By David Amber | Special to ESPN.com

They are the games that keep you on the edge of your seat as your heart pounds and knees shake.

Overtime is the purest form of sport -- score first or lose. Every season, we see many overtime playoff games. This season, we can expect new hockey heroes to be made in the blink of an eye as the red light goes on. Here's a look at some of the most memorable playoff overtime games in NHL history.

[+] EnlargeStephane Matteau
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesStephane Matteau's double-OT winner in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals was key to the Rangers' Cup-winning season.

10. Broadway hit

May 27, 1994: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils
The Eastern Conference finals were a back-and-forth series that went to a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. With the Rangers staring down 54 years of disappointment, Stephane Matteau emerged as the star. Known for his checking, the forward, who was shipped to the Rangers from the Blackhawks at the trade deadline, would be remembered in this game for his scoring touch. Matteau netted the winner four minutes into the second overtime on a wraparound to beat goalie Martin Brodeur. Matteau already beat the Devils in double overtime in Game 3 of the series. The Rangers would go on to beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win their first Stanley Cup since 1940.

9. Crazy comebacks

In the past 10 seasons, two-goal leads, especially in the playoffs, were basically a lock. That wasn't the case during the run-and-gun 1980s.

April 10, 1982: Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers
Even though this game took place in Los Angeles, you couldn't find a Hollywood writer who would dare write such a far-fetched script. The lowly Los Angeles Kings, who finished 48 points behind the mighty Edmonton Oilers in the Smythe Division, trailed 5-0 after two periods in Game 3 of the series. Led by Marcel Dionne and the Triple Crown Line, the Kings chipped away at Edmonton's lead and made it a one-goal game at 5-4 with just minutes left in the third. Then, with the Kings on the power play and their goalie on the bench, rookie Steve Bozek jumped on a loose puck and beat Grant Fuhr to tie it with five seconds left in regulation. Less than three minutes into overtime, another Kings rookie, Daryl Evans, scored the winner to cap the largest single-game playoff comeback in history. The Kings went on to eliminate Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers in five games, thanks to the "Miracle on Manchester."

May 12, 1986: St. Louis Blues vs. Calgary Flames
Facing elimination and a three-goal, third-period deficit in the Campbell Conference finals, the St Louis Blues looked like they were done. But St. Louis stormed back with three goals in the final 12 minutes of regulation to send the game to overtime. Just moments into the extra session, Joey Mullen's hit the post for the Flames. Then, the Blues' Doug Wickenheiser beat Mike Vernon to cap the comeback less than eight minutes into OT. Some describe this game as the most memorable win in Blues history, but they would lose 2-1 in Game 7.

8. The 1993 playoffs

Arguably the most exciting postseason in history -- if you like overtime. Twenty-five of the 86 playoff games went to extra time, and six of those went to double overtime. Six different teams were eliminated in overtime (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Winnipeg and Pittsburgh) as the Wings and Penguins lost in Game 7s.

It was also the season when a Canadian-based team won the Stanley Cup, and the Montreal Canadiens did it in record fashion. After losing to the Nordiques in overtime of Game 1 of the Adams Division semis, the Canadiens won 10 straight overtime games. The most memorable was Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Los Angeles Kings.

With L.A. leading 2-1 late in the third period, Canadiens coach Jacques Demers called for a measurement of Marty McSorley's stick. The stick was ruled illegal and McSorley was given a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. Demers then pulled Patrick Roy for a 6-on-4 advantage. It worked, as Eric Desjardins scored from the point to tie the game and force overtime. Desjardins then made his own history, becoming the first defenseman to collect a hat trick in the Cup finals by scoring 51 seconds into overtime. Montreal won the next three games (two in overtime) to win the series 4-1 and the Cup.

7. Boston man-over-boards

May 10, 1979: Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
For Boston Bruins fans, this was their Bill Buckner moment. It was Game 7 of the Cup semifinals. Boston was leading 4-3 in the dying minutes when linesman John D'Amico caught the Bruins with too many men on the ice. On the ensuing power play, Guy Lafleur beat Gilles Gilbert with only 1:14 left in regulation to force overtime. In extra time, Gilbert made a number of key saves; but during an odd-man rush less than 10 minutes in, Yvon Lambert scored to shatter the Bruins' dream of going to the finals. After the game, Bruins coach Don Cherry shouldered the blame for the late penalty saying, "It's my fault. The players must have thought they heard me say something." The Canadiens would go on to beat the Rangers and win their fourth straight Stanley Cup.

6. I Be-Leaf

Yes, it has been more than four decades since the Toronto Maple Leafs come anywhere close to a Stanley Cup finals, but they have had their share of great overtime moments.

April 21, 1951: Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens
Bill Barilko scored 2:53 into overtime to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 win in the decisive fifth game of the Stanley Cup finals. All five games in the series went to overtime. The 24-year-old Barilko, who won four Cups in five seasons with the Leafs, died in a plane crash that summer, but his body wasn't discovered until 1962, the same year the Leafs would end an 11-year Stanley Cup drought.

April 23, 1964: Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings
Bobby Baun became an unlikely hero under the most unlikely circumstances. The defenseman, who finished his NHL career with just 37 goals in 964 games, scored the winner less than two minutes into overtime in Game 6 of the of the Stanley Cup finals. Earlier in the game, Baun left with a broken ankle, the Leafs medical staff froze and taped it, and Baun returned to the ice to score the winning goal. The Leafs beat Detroit 4-0 in Game 7 to win their third straight Cup.

Bobby Orr
Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty ImagesBobby Orr's Cup-clinching celebration is one of the most memorable images in sports.

5. Orr soars

May 10, 1970: Boston Bruins vs. St. Louis Blues
You have seen the picture or video hundreds of times, the sight of jubilant future Hall of Famer Bobby Orr flying through the air celebrating his Stanley Cup-clinching overtime goal. In the first minute of extra time, Orr drove to the net and is tripped by Blues defenseman Noel Picard. As he sailed through the air, Orr raised his arms in triumph to celebrate Boston's first Stanley Cup in 29 years. The play is simply known as "the goal," becoming the crowning jewel for Orr. He also picked up the Art Ross, Norris, Conn Smythe and Hart Trophies.

4. Montreal madness

You don't win 24 Stanley Cups without dramatic overtime victories. Some of the more memorable Montreal moments include:

May 5, 1986: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers:
Game 3 of 1986 conference finals is remembered as one of the finest goaltending displays in modern history. Patrick Roy, a 20-year-old rookie, made save after save in overtime -- 13 in a row at one point to frustrate the Rangers to no end. Montreal then called on another rookie, Claude Lemieux, to end the game, beating John Vanbiesbrouck on the Canadiens' only shot in overtime.

May 18, 1986: Montreal Canadiens vs. Calgary Flames
Just 13 days after Roy stole the game in overtime in the conference final, fellow rookie Brian Skrudland ended the shortest overtime game in NHL history. The 22-year-old forward scored just nine seconds into the extra frame to give Montreal a 3-2 victory over Calgary in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals. With 11 rookies in their lineup, Montreal won it all in five games.

3. The "H" in Hockeytown is for history

What is it about Motown and magical overtime moments? The Red Wings have been front and center for some of the NHL's best extra-time finishes.

March 24, 1936: Red Wings vs. Montreal Maroons
Talk about making a rookie splash. Mud Bruneteau helped bring the Cup to Motown by ending the longest Stanley Cup playoff game. He scored the game's only goal in a 1-0 win over the Montreal Maroons in the opening game of the Stanley Cup semifinals. The goal came nearly 17 minutes into the sixth overtime period. The Wings would win the Cup that season and become the first U.S.-based team to repeat as champs the following season.

April 23, 1950: Red Wings vs. New York Rangers
Pete Babando, one of only a handful of American-born players at the time, scored eight minutes into double overtime to win the Stanley Cup for the Red Wings. The 4-3 win in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals was the first time a seventh game of the finals went to overtime.

April 16, 1954: Red Wings vs. Montreal Canadiens
Standing just 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, Tony Leswick was small in stature, but he still owns one of the biggest and most bizarre moments in Stanley Cup history. Four minutes into overtime of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, Leswick dumped the puck high in the air toward the Montreal net on a line change. Future Hall of Famer Doug Harvey would accidentally tip the puck past Habs goalie Gerry McNeil to hand the Wings the championship. No Game 7 in the Cup finals has gone to overtime since.

2. Cup clinchers

It's every kid's dream -- to score the Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal. Sometimes, those dreams do come true.

May 24, 1980: New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers
A dynasty was born the moment Bob Nystrom scored the Cup-clinching goal at 7:11 of overtime to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. Nicknamed "Thor" by his teammates, the Swedish-born Nystrom was a pillar of strength during the postseason, but he will always be remembered for tipping home a perfect pass from John Tonelli to give the Islanders their first of four straight Stanley Cups.

June 10, 1996: Colorado Avalanche vs. Florida Panthers
On a night when Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Claude Lemieux were kept off the scoreboard for five straight periods, it was Uwe Krupp who won the Cup for Colorado in the third overtime as his goal gave the Avs a 1-0 win and a four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers. The defenseman became the 13th player in NHL history to end the Stanley Cup finals with an overtime goal.

June 19, 1999: Dallas Stars vs. Buffalo Sabres
In one of the most controversial finishes to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Brett Hull scored late in the third overtime as Dallas beat Buffalo for the Stanley Cup. With his left skate clearly in the crease, Hull buried the Cup-winner behind Dominik Hasek. Despite the Sabres' protest, the league ruled that Hull had possession of the puck and was entitled to be in the crease on the play. The crease interference rule was eliminated by the league the following season, providing little comfort for Sabres fans who are still waiting their first championship.

June 10th, 2000: New Jersey Devils vs. Dallas Stars
One year after the Hull controversy, the Dallas Stars found themselves on the wrong end of an overtime Cup-winning goal. In double overtime, Jason Arnott driving to the net beats a sprawling Ed Belfour in Game 6 to give the Devils their second Stanley Cup. Arnott is the 15th and last player to have scored a Cup-winning overtime goal.

[+] EnlargeBrett Hull
AP Photo/Kevin FrayerBrett Hull's skate-in-the-crease goal gave the 1999 Stanley Cup finals a controversial end.
1. Marathons

April 18, 1987: New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
One of the greatest hockey moments I can remember was staying up to watch "Hockey Night in Canada" on Easter weekend for Game 7 between the Islanders and Capitals. New York had fought back from a 3-1 series deficit and had to go into Washington for the deciding game. With about five minutes left in the third period, Bryan Trottier scored to tie the game at 2 and send it to overtime. Little did I know, no one would score for what seemed like an eternity. One overtime period passed, then a second, then a third. Goalies Kelly Hrudey (Islanders) and Bob Mason (Capitals) were clearly exhausted, but they somehow didn't let a puck get past them. So, for the first time since 1951, a game went to quadruple overtime. Finally, at 1:58 a.m. ET, Pat LaFontaine fired a shot from the point to beat a screened Mason, ending what is now known as the "Easter Epic." The final tally: Hrudey 73 saves, Mason 54 saves, 40 exhausted players and thousands of weary, but appreciative, fans.

May 15, 1990: Edmonton Oilers vs. Boston Bruins
It was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, but for nearly four periods, Petr Klima was glued to the bench, a punishment for a few giveaways earlier in the game. But midway through the third overtime, Oilers coach John Muckler had no choice but to throw the enigmatic forward on the ice for a shift. Talk about going from the dog house to the penthouse. Klima, a five-time 30-goal scorer, broke down the wing and beat Andy Moog to end the longest overtime game in Cup finals history. The game is also remembered in Boston Garden folklore after the arena lights went out for nearly 30 minutes during the third overtime, just as they had during the 1988 Cup finals (a game that was ultimately canceled).

April 24, 1996: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
Game 4 of the conference quarterfinals had all sorts of twists and turns. In the second overtime, Joe Juneau was stopped on a penalty shot by Ken Wregget, who had replaced Tom Barrasso (he left early in the game with muscle spasms). Then, in final minute of the fourth overtime, Petr Nedved snapped a shot through traffic on the power play to beat Olaf Kolzig, who had already made 62 saves. The game was the fifth longest in NHL history, with only a few thousand fans remaining from the sellout crowd in Washington. Nedved's goal came six periods after Mario Lemieux had been ejected for instigating a fight. Truly bizarre.

May 4, 2000: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
One of the best rivalries in the NHL had one of the most memorable finishes during the 2000 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. In the fifth overtime, Keith Primeau made a great one-on-one move on Darius Kasparaitis and beat Ron Tugnutt with a high wrist shot to end the longest games in modern NHL playoff history. The goal came at 92:01 of overtime play.

ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.