From Gordie to Stevie Y, Wings had plenty to cheer about
With more than 500 playoff games and 10 Stanley Cup titles to their credit, there is no shortage of memorable playoff games in Detroit Red Wings history. From Gordie Howe's flying elbows, to flying octopi in the stands, to high-flying, end-to-end overtime rushes, the Wings have had a storied playoff past. Here's a look at 10 of their most memorable games:
10. June 8, 2002: Game 3, Stanley Cup finals vs. Carolina Hurricanes (3-2 triple OT win)
With the series tied at one game apiece, the Wings' victory in Game 3 was the defining moment that helped bring Hockeytown yet another Stanley Cup. The 19th-longest game in NHL history needed 54 minutes and 47 seconds of overtime and a 42-year-old "professor" to decide a winner. Igor Larionov on a beautiful rush deked a sprawling Bates Battaglia and then beat Arturs Irbe with a backhand upstairs to score the game-winning goal. Earlier in the game, Larionov had broken his own NHL record as the oldest player to score a Stanley Cup finals goal -- he was 42 years, 172 days old at the time. Larionov was the elder statesman on a team that could eventually boast nine potential Hall of Famers: Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Luc Robitaille, Chris Chelios and Dominik Hasek.
9. April 23, 1950: Game 7, Stanley Cup finals vs. New York Rangers (4-2 double OT win)
In the first game of this playoff series, Gordie Howe was injured and lost for the remainder of the playoffs. The Red Wings moved on without one of their leaders, calling on role players to step up in Howe's absence. Pete Babando, a checking forward with limited offensive skill, did just that. In the seventh and deciding game, Babando scored eight minutes into double overtime to win the Stanley Cup for the Red Wings. It was Babando's second goal of the game; he had scored only one other playoff goal in his career. This was the first time a seventh game of the Cup final went to overtime. It also began a run of four Stanley Cup titles for Detroit in a six-year span.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Ryan RemiorzThe old man, Igor Larionov, was instrumental in the Red Wings taking a 2-1 series lead in the 2002 Stanley Cup finals versus the Hurricanes.
8. May 1, 2008: Game 4, Western Conference semifinals vs. Colorado (8-2 win)
This game helped propel Johan Franzen into the record books while dispatching Detroit's most bitter rival. For the second time in the four-game sweep of Colorado, Franzen collected a hat trick. The 28-year-old Swede had nine goals in the series, equaling the total scored by the entire Avalanche team. Franzen also knocked Gordie Howe out of the Wings' record book, topping the legend's previous team record of eight goals in the 1949 playoff series. Franzen became the first player with two hat tricks in one series since Jari Kurri did it for Edmonton against Chicago in 1985, and the first Red Wing to do it since Norm Ullman in 1964. In the game, Franzen also set the Wings' record for most goals in one postseason (11), which was held by three players, including Brett Hull, who needed 23 games to score 10 times in 2002.
7. June 16, 1998: Game 4, Stanley Cup finals vs. Washington (4-1 win)
This game is memorable for a few reasons. First and foremost, it brought the Red Wings a second straight Stanley Cup. But the image that resonates most with many hockey fans is the sight of Steve Yzerman handing the Cup to wheelchair-bound Vladimir Konstantinov on the ice during the postgame celebration. The previous June, just six days after winning the Stanley Cup, Konstantinov, Slava Fetisov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov were involved in a serious limousine accident that ended Konstantinov's career. The Wings rallied around their fallen defenseman throughout the 1998 season and on the night they won the Cup without him on the ice. The team made it clear he was not forgotten by helping Konstantinov do a victory lap with the Cup in his wheelchair and engraving his name (and Mnatsakanov's) on the Stanley Cup.
6. March 24, 1936: Game 1, semifinals vs. Montreal Maroons (1-0 six OT win)
In a series that pitted the Canadian Division champion Maroons against the American Division champion Red Wings, the first game was an epic affair. The puck dropped for Game 1 at the Montreal Forum at 8:30 p.m. and the first and only goal of the game was scored at 2:25 a.m. Rookie Mud Bruneteau, who had been called up halfway through the season, ended the longest Stanley Cup playoff game in history by scoring nearly 17 minutes into the sixth overtime period. Bruneteau was the youngest player in that game and didn't see a regular shift until the multiple overtimes began. The 1-0 win led Detroit to a series sweep and was followed by a 3-1 series win against the Maple Leafs to capture the Wings' first ever Stanley Cup championship.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Susan WalshSteve Yzerman led all players with 24 points in the 1998 Stanley Cup finals, but his celebration with Vladimir Konstantinov is a moment that will never be forgotten.
5. May 31, 2002: Game 7, Western Conference finals vs. Colorado (7-0 win)
The Wings and Avalanche met in the playoffs five times between 1996 and 2002. Just like this year, the 2002 playoff series had a surprising, lopsided finish. In the first six games of the series, every single battle was decided by two goals or fewer. But in Game 7, the Wings beat Patrick Roy on their first two shots. Detroit eventually knocked Roy out of the game in the second period after he allowed six goals on just 16 shots. Joe Louis Arena was energized throughout the game, which the Wings dominated on their way to a 7-0 win. The teams' high-profile players -- Hull, Robitaille and Fedorov -- all scored in the game, as did current Detroit stars Tomas Holmstrom (twice) and Pavel Datsyuk. Dominik Hasek recorded his fifth shutout of that playoff year in the win.
4. May 16, 1996: Game 7, Western Conference semifinals vs. St. Louis (1-0 double OT win)
The scene is unforgettable: Steve Yzerman mobbed by his teammates as Joe Louis Arena went wild with "Whoomp! (There It Is)" blaring in the background. It was the perfect shot by the perfect player at the perfect time. The game was scoreless into the fifth period, when an innocent-looking giveaway by Wayne Gretzky at center ice turned into a magical moment by the Wings' captain. Yzerman ripped a slap shot from just inside the blue line over the shoulder of a stunned Jon Casey. The game ended with Yzerman's first career overtime playoff goal and arguably the most memorable of his 70 career postseason goals.
3. April 16, 1954: Game 7, Stanley Cup finals vs. Montreal (2-1 OT win)
It was an epic battle between the NHL's top two teams, Detroit and Montreal, and the league's top two players, Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard. The Canadiens were the defending champs and had overcome a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7. In the final game, 60 minutes of hockey wasn't enough and overtime was needed to determine a champion. On this night, it wasn't Howe or Richard who made the difference; it was Tony Leswick. Four minutes into overtime, Leswick, a diminutive winger from Saskatchewan, dumped the puck high in the air toward the Montreal net on a line change. Doug Harvey accidentally tipped the puck past Habs goalie Gerry McNeil to hand the Wings the championship, marking the most bizarre finish for a championship game. No Game 7 in the Cup finals has gone to overtime since.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Tom PidgeonAfter a 42-year title drought, Darren McCarty helped bring "Hockeytown USA" to its feet, sweeping the Flyers in the finals.
2. April 15, 1952: Game 4, Stanley Cup finals vs. Montreal (3-0 win)
On this night, the legend of the octopus began. Detroit was on the verge of winning its eighth straight playoff game to capture the Stanley Cup when brothers Pete and Jerry Cusimano, owners of a fish store in Detroit's Eastern Market, hurled a dead octopus onto the ice at Olympia Stadium. The tentacles of the octopus represented the Wings' playoff wins. That night completed one of the greatest playoff runs in NHL history, led by the legendary Production Line of Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay and Hall of Fame goalie Terry Sawchuk. Detroit became the first team in 17 years to go undefeated in the postseason. The Wings swept both Toronto and Montreal en route to the Cup, outscoring them collectively 24-5. This game featured complete domination by the Wings and the birth of a new tradition in which an eight-legged friend has helped bring Lord Stanley's Cup to Motown a number of times.
1. June 7, 1997: Game 4, Stanley Cup finals vs. Philadelphia (2-1 win)
After a 42-year hiatus, the Stanley Cup finally returned to Hockeytown. The final series against the Flyers showcased the Wings' domination, as they outscored Philadelphia 16-6 in the sweep. Mike Vernon was spectacular throughout the playoffs, posting a 1.76 GAA and earning MVP honors. But it was bruising forward Darren McCarty who stole the show in Game 4. With the Flyers trailing 1-0 and on the attack, McCarty delivered the knockout blow, taking the puck at center, blowing past Janne Niinimaa and eluding Ron Hextall's poke check to score one of the prettiest goals of the playoffs. For his efforts, McCarty earned an ESPY nomination, picked up a Stanley Cup ring and left an indelible mark in Red Wings playoff history. McCarty helped one of the game's all-time leaders, Steve Yzerrman, hoist the Stanley Cup after 14 years in the league. It was a moment Detroit sports fans will never forget.
ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
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