NHL Playoffs: Most Shocking Playoff Moments in NHL History

Ryan DavenportContributor IApril 23, 2012

NHL Playoffs: Most Shocking Playoff Moments in NHL History

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    Throughout Stanley Cup playoffs history, there have been a number of moments that have stunned the hockey world, each leaving fans, players and coaches speechless.  

    There's no bigger stage than the playoffs, and with emotions running high at all times, anything is possible. 

    Fluke goals, devastating checks, jaw-dropping upsets and dramatic comebacks are commonplace during the Stanley Cup playoffs, which is part of what makes the NHL's postseason arguably the most entertaining in all of professional sports.  

    In honor of a first round that generated a few surprisingly early playoff exits, here's a look at some of the most shocking moments in Stanley Cup playoff history.  

11. Kevin Bieksa Send the Canucks to the Final

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    The 2011 Western Conference finals turned out to be a relatively short series, as the Canucks sent the Sharks packing in five games, but San Jose didn't exactly go out easily.  

    In Game 5, with the Canucks up 3-1 in the series, the Sharks held a 2-1 lead until Ryan Kesler forced overtime with less than 15 seconds remaining in the third period.  The Canucks and Sharks battled late into the Vancouver night, as the first overtime solved nothing.  

    As the game reached the midway point of the second overtime session, the Canucks caught the kind of lucky break that they'd fallen victim to in previous years, and Kevin Bieksa ended the series with one of the strangest goals in NHL history.  

    Alexander Edler attempted to dump the puck in deep, but the puck took a bizarre bounce off the glass, and wound up landing on Kevin Bieksa's stick in the high slot.  Nobody on the ice besides Bieksa was even aware the puck was still in play, as Joe Pavelski and Henrik Sedin began motioning to the officials that the puck had gone over the glass.  

    With Antti Niemi's attention elsewhere, Bieksa one-timed the rolling puck by the stunned goaltender, sending the Canucks to the Finals for the first time since 1994.  

10. Montreal Upsets the Top Seeded Caps

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    Heading into the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, many analysts had tabbed the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals as the top Cup contender in the Eastern Conference.  

    Somebody forgot to relay that message to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens, who earned the right to play the Caps in the first round.   Led by relatively unknown netminder Jaroslav Halak, the Canadiens captured the opening game of the series on enemy ice in overtime, before dropping the next three games in rather convincing fashion.  

    Down 3-1 in the series going into Game 5, the Canadiens rallied, winning two one-goal games to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington.  There, Halak stole the show, stopping 41 of 42 shots to help Montreal orchestrate one of the biggest upsets in NHL history. 

9. Stevens' Hit on Lindros in the Eastern Conference Finals

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    In 2000, Eric Lindros, when healthy, was arguably the most dominant offensive force in the game, as he'd average well over a point per game during his eight NHL seasons.  

    At that point in his career, Lindros had fallen victim to a number of concussions and other serious injuries, but with his Flyers leading the Devils in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals by a three game to two lead heading into Game 6, Philadelphia looked poised to return to the finals.  

    In Game 6, which was Lindros' first in over two months, the Flyers fell to the Devils, setting the stage for a do-or-die Game 7 in Philadelphia.  

    Unfortunately for Lindros and the city of Philadelphia, he didn't last long.  Under eight minutes in the game's opening period, Lindros was leveled by an open-ice hit courtesy of New Jersey's Scot Stevens.  Lindros was knocked unconscious immediately, and the Flyers went on to lose the game.  

    The play served as a rallying point for the Devils, who went on to win their second Cup in five years, and Stevens collected the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts.  

8. Patrick Kane's Cup-Winning Centering Pass

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    The 2010 Stanley Cup Finals was one of the most entertaining playoff series in recent memory, as two star studded teams battled one another for six hotly contested games.  

    After the Chicago Blackhawks took a two game to none lead, the series shifted to Philadelphia, where the Flyers took the third and fourth games of the series to knot the Finals up.  The Blackhawks rallied to take Game 5, earning the opportunity to capture the franchise's first Stanley Cup in nearly fifty years in Philadelphia.  

    In Game 6, Chicago held a 3-2 lead entering the third period, but Scott Hartnell evened the score with less than four minutes to play to force sudden death overtime.  

    In the extra session, Chicago fans didn't have to wait long to celebrate.  Just over four minutes into the first overtime period, Patrick Kane flew down the left wing and threw a prayer of a shot on net from near the boards in the left corner.  

    The shot fooled Philadelphia's Michael Leighton, and squeaked through his pads, and though Kane began celebrating immediately, many of the Blackhawks were unaware that the shot had actually gone in until the referees confirmed that the puck had crossed the line.  

7. Edmonton Takes Down the Top Seeded Red Wings

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    The 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs featured one of the most surprising postseason runs ever, as the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers marched all the way to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup without ever having home ice advantage.  

    Though each of the three series Edmonton won were impressive, the Oilers' quarterfinal series was arguably their most difficult, as the blue collar Oilers faced off against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings.  

    With a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 in Edmonton, the Oilers knew they had a better chance of winning at home than facing the challenge of defeating a team that had won three Stanley Cups in the last decade on the Wings' home ice.  

    Trailing 2-0 going into the third period, the Oilers rallied.  About three minutes into the game's final period, Edmonton cut the Wings' lead to one, and four minutes later, Fernando Pisani tied the game at two.  

    In the final 10 minutes of the game, the Oilers scored twice to take the game 4-2, sending the Wings home much earlier than anyone could've expected.  

6. Paul Kariya Wakes Up and Scores

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    At the time of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, Scott Stevens was the most feared hitter in the game, and he'd knocked out more than his fair share of opponents with his shoulder.  

    In Game 6 of the Finals, Paul Kariya became Stevens' latest victim.  As Kariya skated across New Jersey's blue line in the second period, Stevens dropped the Ducks captain, delivery a shoulder to Kariya's head.  After laying motionless on the ice for a moment, Kariya began to move, and he was helped off the ice and appeared disoriented.  

    Most assumed Kariya would miss at least the remainder of the series, but less than five minutes after appearing to be rendered unconscious, he returned to action.  

    With just under three minutes left in the second period, Kariya darted down the left wing into New Jersey territory, and uncorked a slap shot that blew over Martin Brodeur's shoulder, sending the Ducks faithful into a frenzy.  

    The goal gave Anaheim a 4-1 lead heading into the third period which they never relinquished. Though the Ducks would ultimately fall in Game 7, Kariya's performance was one of the most stirring sequences in NHL history.  

5. Hunter Ends Turgeon's Celebration

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    In the 1993 Patrick Division semifinals, the Islanders jumped out to a 3-2 series lead, pushing the Capitals to the brink of elimination heading into Game 6 on Long Island.  

    The Caps and Isles battled back and forth for two periods, but with the Islanders leading by three midway through the third period, New York's Pierre Turgeon stole the puck from Capitals' captain Dale Hunter and found himself all alone on a breakaway.  

    After Turgeon rifled the puck by Washington's Don Beaupre, Hunter went looking for retribution.  As Turgeon curled and skated up the boards celebrating what was essentially a series clinching goal, Hunter dropped his shoulder and absolutely decapitated the Islanders star forward.  

    A bench-clearing brawl ensued, and though Hunter was handed a 23-game suspension for his actions, the Islanders were the real loser, as Turgeon missed the rest of the postseason, and New York fell in the Conference finals.   

4. The Night the Lights Went out at Boston Garden

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    In the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins were beaten soundly by Wayne Gretzky's Oilers, as Edmonton swept the series en route to the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup in five years.  

    Despite all the story lines that surrounded the series, which ultimately served as Gretzky's farewell to the city of Edmonton, the 1988 Finals are most remembered for an event that was far beyond the players' control.  

    After taking the series' first three games in decisive fashion, the Oilers headed into Boston Garden intent on completing the sweep, but the Bruins put up a fight in Game 4.  

    Throughout the game's opening two periods, fog developed close to the ice, limiting visibility for everyone in the arena, but the game carried on.  Then, the unthinkable happened, as a power failure caused the lights to go out at the Boston Garden with 3:23 remaining in the second period.  

    When power couldn't be restored immediately, the league ruled that the game wouldn't count towards the series, and that Game 4 would be played in Edmonton, taking home ice away from the Bruins.  

    Back home in Edmonton, the Oilers made quick work of the Bruins, winning 6-3 to complete the sweep and capture yet another Stanley Cup.  Though the outcome of the series was never really in doubt, any momentum the Bruins had gained during Game 4 was lost when the lights went out in their home barn.  

3. Steve Smith Ends Edmonton's Hopes of a Three-Peat

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    In 1986, the two-time reigning Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers were heavily favored to win the "Battle of Alberta" against the Calgary Flames in the Smythe Division Finals.  

    The series was an instant classic, as the two teams traded wins back and forth until the series was knotted at three games a piece, setting up a decisive Game 7 in Edmonton.  

    Heading into the third period of the deciding game of the series, the Oilers and Flames were even at two, but the deadlock didn't last long.  

    Roughly five minutes into the final frame,an Oilers rookie defenseman named Steve Smith gathered the puck behind the Edmonton net and looked to move the puck up the ice.  Unfortunately, the plan backfired, and Smith's pass accidentally ricocheted off the back of goaltender Grant Fuhr's skate and wound up in the back of the Oilers' net.  

    The goal stood as the series-clinching tally, and the Flames ended Edmonton's hopes of a third consecutive championship.  

2. Miracle on Manchester

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    In the early 1980's, the Edmonton Oilers appeared to be a team on the brink of building a dynasty.  In the 1982 playoffs, the Division champion Oilers faced the fourth-seeded Kings in the opening round, and few thought Los Angeles stood a chance.  

    After trading wins in the first two games of the series, the Oilers stormed out of the gates for Game 3 at the Forum in Los Angeles and built a 5-0 lead by the end of the second intermission.  

    The third period, on the other hand, was a completely different story.  Edmonton, believing they'd locked up an important win, eased up, and the young Kings made them pay for it.  Goals by Jay Wells, Doug Smith and Charlie Simmer before the midway point of the period brought the Kings back to within two, but time was running out.  

    With less than five minutes to go, Edmonton's Gary Unger and L.A.'s Dave Lewis got into a scrum behind the play, and Unger high-sticked Lewis in the face, drawing a major penalty.  

    Though Lewis received a minor penalty on the play as well, the Kings would get a three minute power play to end the game.  Pat Hardy beat Edmonton netminder Grant Fuhr with a little over three minutes to play to cut the lead to one. 

    Still down a goal with less than a minute to play, the Kings tried frantically to get the equalizer.  With less than 10 seconds to play, Steve Bozek scored on a rebound to force overtime, sending the crowd at the Forum into a frenzy.  

    At this point, the game's outcome seemed inevitable and less than three minutes into overtime, the Kings completed the comeback.  Darryl Evans' slap shot beat Fuhr over the glove, and a delirious celebration ensued, shifting the momentum to the Kings' side for good.  

    Two games later, the Kings eliminated the heavily favored Oilers, putting an exclamation point on one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.  

1. Philadelphia Fights Back Against Boston in 2010

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    In the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, the Boston Bruins thoroughly dominated the Philadelphia Flyers for the first three games of the series and took a three game-to-none lead going into Game 4.  

    In Game 4, longtime Flyer Simon Gagne scored in overtime to keep the Flyers' dim postseason hopes alive, but suddenly it became a brand new series.  The Flyers would go on to win the next two games in convincing fashion, forcing a Game 7 in Boston.  

    Like they had in the series itself, the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period of Game 7, but James Van Riemsdyk cut the lead to two before the first intermission.  In the second, Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere would add goals to send the game to the third tied at three.  

    There, Gagne was again the hero, as he scored with less than eight minutes to play to complete a remarkable comeback.  

    The eighth-seeded Flyers' historic turnaround didn't ultimately result in a Stanley Cup, but their miraculous series with Boston remains one of the most shocking moments in hockey history.