Only four NHL teams have won a playoff series after going down 3-0
By Cam Lewis16 days ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t in a good spot.
Sunday’s overtime loss in Florida put them down 3-0 in their second-round series with the Panthers, so there’s zero room for error left.
If the Leafs are going to continue their pursuit of the Stanley Cup, they’ll have to do the impossible. Through the 2021 playoffs, 198 teams have gone down 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series in the NHL. Nine of those teams managed to claw back and force a Game 7 and four of them were able to complete the comeback.
Here are the four teams who pulled off the most difficult comeback in sports…
1942 Stanley Cup Final: Toronto Maple Leafs over Detroit Red Wings
The Leafs were the first team ever to pull off a 3-0 comeback in NHL history and it came on the biggest stage.
The Red Wings won the first three games of the 1942 Stanley Cup Final and appeared poised to sweep the series in Game 4 when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period. The Leafs battled back with two goals late in the second and two more in the third and kept the series alive with a 4-3 win.
They came back to Toronto and won Game 5 by a score of 9-3 and then Turk Broda put up a shutout in Game 6 to knot the series at 3-3. Back in Toronto for Game 7, the Red Wings opened the scoring but the Leafs scored three unanswered goals and won 3-1 to complete the comeback.
A few years later in 1945, the Red Wings nearly got revenge on the Leafs. Toronto went up 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final and Detroit battled back to even the series but the Leafs nipped the comeback and won Game 7.
1975 Second Round: New York Islanders over Pittsburgh Penguins
It took more than 30 years for another team to pull off a 3-0 comeback in the NHL playoffs.
The Penguins torched Islanders goalie Billy Smith for 13 goals over the first three games of their second-round series and took a commanding 3-0 lead in the process. Coach Al Arbour opted to bench Smith and roll with backup Glenn Resch between the pipes instead.
Resch completely locked things down for the Islanders as they came back and won the next three games to force a Game 7 in Pittsburgh. In the deciding game, Resch made 30 stops and the Islanders squeezed out a 1-0 win to finish off the comeback.
In the next round, the Islanders went down 3-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers and managed yet another comeback but dropped Game 7 by a score of 4-1.
2010 Second Round: Philadelphia Flyers over Boston Bruins
The NHL again went more than 30 years before seeing another 3-0 comeback in the playoffs.
The Bruins won the first three games in their second-round series against the Flyers in 2010 and they had a great opportunity to finish off the sweep in Game 4. Boston’s Mark Recchi scored in the dying moments of the third period to force overtime but Simon Gagne saved Philadelphia’s season with the game-winner.
The Flyers won Game 5 back in Boston and they edged out a win in Philly in Game 6 to force a winner-take-all Game 7. Fittingly, the Bruins went up 3-0 in that game and the Flyers stormed back to win by a score of 4-3.
They would go on to beat the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final but lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins, meanwhile, won the Stanley Cup the following season.
2014 First Round: Los Angeles Kings over San Jose Sharks
There was no 30-plus-year wait for the NHL’s next 3-0 playoff comeback.
Actually, two of them nearly happened the following year, as the Blackhawks and Red Wings forced Game 7s against the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks in 2011. Both the Canucks and Sharks made it through and wound up meeting in the Western Conference Final.
The Sharks were able to avoid the embarrassment of such a choke in 2011, but they couldn’t in 2014 when they faced the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. San Jose went up 3-0 in the series with an overtime win in Game 3 and then the Kings completely took control of the series.
L.A. won 6-3, 3-0, 4-1, and 5-1 to complete the reverse sweep and then marched through the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, and New York Rangers to win their second Stanley Cup in three years.
Other Down 3-0 Playoff Comebacks in North American Sports…
The NHL actually has the highest instance of 3-0 playoff comebacks of any of the major North American professional sports leagues. It’s happened just once in Major League Baseball history and it’s never happened in the National Basketball Association.
The NBA has seen three instances in which a team has come back to force a Game 7 but none of them were able to complete the comeback. Most recently, it happened in 2003 when the Dallas Mavericks nearly blew their 3-0 lead to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.
The one time it happened in MLB was in 2003 when the Boston Red Sox came back and beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series Championship since 1918.
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