Monday, April 17, 2017

{allcanada} April 18: Wayne Gretzky plays final game


1999: Wayne Gretzky says goodbye to the NHL as only he can.

Before a packed house at Madison Square Garden, Gretzky earns the 2,857th and final point of his NHL career, an assist in the New York Rangers' 2-1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their final game of the season.

Before the game, the festivities include videotaped messages from Gordie Howe, his boyhood idol. After Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr ends the game by scoring at 1:22 of OT, Gretzky takes a few laps around the Garden ice; they are reminiscent of the ones he took with the Stanley Cup during his days with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s.

Gretzky is still in uniform when he meets the media; when that's done, he sits for a while longer, allowing the moment to linger.

"Probably, subconsciously, I don't want to take it off,'' he says when asked why he hasn't changed. "I'm not going to pull it on ever again. It's hard. It's hard to take it off right now. I have to be honest with you. I don't want to take it off. 

"I was a boy that happened to love a game and got lucky, and the good Lord gave me a passion for it."



1942: The Toronto Maple Leafs complete the greatest comeback in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in Game 7 of the Final. The Maple Leafs become the first team in NHL history to win a best-of-7 series after losing the first three games; they're still the only one to do it in the Final. Sweeney Schriner scores two of Toronto's three third-period goals. "I still look back and think about that club winning four after losing three in the Finals," forward Gaye Stewart, a rookie on that team, remembers decades later, "and only one word comes to mind: phenomenal."

1959: The Montreal Canadiens become the first team to win the Stanley Cup four years in a row by defeating Toronto 5-3 at the Forum in Game 5 of the Final. Bernie Geoffrion scores twice to become the second player in NHL history to reach 50 playoff goals, and rookie Ralph Backstrom has a goal and three assists.

1983: The Calgary Flames bid farewell to their first home, the Stampede Corral, by defeating the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in Game 4 of the Smythe Division Final. The Flames spend their first three seasons at the Corral after moving from Atlanta in 1980; they move to the Saddledome (now Scotiabank Saddledome) for the 1983-84 season.


1987: Pat LaFontaine's goal at 68:47 of overtime gives the New York Islanders a 3-2 victory against the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Patrick Division Semifinals in Landover, Maryland. The game starts on Saturday night and lasts into the early hours of Sunday morning, becoming known as the "Easter Epic." Islanders goaltender Kelly Hrudey makes 73 saves before LaFontaine's turnaround slap shot from just inside the blue line whizzes past a screened Bob Mason for the win.

1994: The San Jose Sharks win the first playoff game in their history, shocking the Red Wings 5-4 at Joe Louis Arena in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Sharks stun the full house at Joe Louis Arena by scoring three goals in the first period, but the game is tied 4-4 until defenseman Vlastimil Kroupa scores the go-ahead goal with 4:24 remaining in the third period. The Sharks become the first team since the 1975 Islanders to win their first playoff game.


1996: The Tampa Bay Lightning get their first playoff win by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Core States Center. Brian Bellows scores the winning goal at 9:05 of OT.


2012: The Pittsburgh Penguins tie two playoff records when they defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 10-3 at Wells Fargo Center in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Pittsburgh equals the record for most goals in a playoff game by a road team, set by the Los Angeles Kings in 1982 and matched by the Edmonton Oilers a year later. The Penguins also tie the single-game record for goals by a team facing elimination, matching a 10-3 victory by the Canadiens against the Maple Leafs in Game 5 of the 1945 Semifinals.

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