May 25 is one of the most memorable days in National Hockey League history. Not only was a bold prediction made true, but three Stanley Cup champions were crowned as well.
Messier Backs Up His Guarantee
“We will win tonight.” That was the famous quote from New York Rangers captain Mark Messier prior to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils. On May 25, 1994, he backed up his bold prediction and led his team to the 4-2 road win to force a seventh and final game.
The Devils took a 2-0 lead in the second period before Messier put the Rangers on his back. He assisted on Alex Kovalev’s goal to cut the deficit in half before the middle frame expired. In the third period, Messier scores three times, including a late empty-net goal to seal the deal.
The Rangers would win Game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, where they took on the Vancouver Canucks, who won the Western Conference championship the previous night. Messier and the Rangers had one more memorable seven-game series on deck before reaching the promised land.
The Calgary Flames won their first-ever Stanley Cup on May 25, 1989, by beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-2, in Game 6 of the Final. In his final NHL game, captain Lanny McDonald put the Flames up 2-1 early in the second period. Doug Gilmour added a pair of goals in the third period to cap off the championship night.
Head coach Terry Crisp became the 12th man to win the Stanley Cup both as both a player and coach. Flames defenseman Al MacInnis won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player of the postseason. He scored seven goals and 31 points in 22 postseason games. This was just the third time the Canadiens allowed another team to raise the Stanley Cup in their building.
The Flames were back in the Final 15 years later. On May 25, 2004, they won 4-1 at the Tampa Bay Lightning, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Jarome Iginla’s shorthanded, breakaway goal in the second period proved to be the game-winner. Defenseman Andrew Ference added a goal and an assist in the victory.
The Canadiens won their third straight championship, on May 25, 1978, by beating the Boston Bruins 4-1, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Defenseman Brad Park opened the scoring to give the Bruins an early 1-0 lead, but it was all Canadiens from that point. Mario Tremblay scored twice with Steve Shutt and Rejean Houle also added goals. Montreal blueliner Larry Robinson took home the Conn Smythe Trophy for scoring four goals and 21 points during the playoffs.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won their first championship in franchise history on May 25, 1991, with an 8-0 beating of the Minnesota North Stars, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Goaltender Tom Barrasso made 39 saves to earn the first playoff shutout of his career. Mario Lemieux had a goal and three assists and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy for finishing the playoffs with 16 goals and 44 points in 23 games.
More History for Roy
On May 25, 1996, Patrick Roy won his 81st career playoff game, passing Ken Dryden for second all-time in playoff wins. The milestone came in the Colorado Avalanche’s 4-2 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. At the time, Roy only trailed Billy Smith of the New York Islanders, who had 88 career playoff wins. He currently holds the record with 151 wins, 38 more than anyone else.
Six year later, on May 25, 2002, Roy broke the NHL record for the most playoff games played by one player. In his 237th postseason game, he led the Avalanche to another victory over the Red Wings, this time 3-2, in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. At the time, he passed Messier for the most playoff games played. He retired with 247 playoff games; the most be any NHL goaltender. He is third all-time, overall, only behind Nicklas Lidstrom (263) and Chris Chelios (266).
Odds & Ends
Wayne Gretzky worked his magic on May 25, 1985. He scored a first-period hat trick in the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Defenseman Paul Coffey picked up assists on all three of Gretzky’s goals and another on Mike Krushelnyski’s game-winning tally in the second period. Goaltender Grant Fuhr made 27 saves to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead in the series.
On May 25, 1993, Glenn Anderson scored at 19:20 of overtime to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 3-2 win over the visiting Los Angeles Kings, in Game 5 of the Campbell Conference Final. Veteran defenseman Bob Rouse picked up three assists in the victory.
Colorado’s COMSAT Entertainment group agreed in principle to purchase the Quebec Nordiques, on May 25, 1995, and move the team to Denver. The Nordiques would make the official announcement on July 1, 1995.
The Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in overtime, on May 25, 1998, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final. Todd Krygier scored in overtime after Matthew Barnaby of the Sabres tied the game with just 57 seconds left in regulation. Bill Clinton was in the building to become the first sitting U.S. President to ever attend an NHL game.
Curtis Joseph recorded his 15th career playoff shutout, on May 25. 2002, as the Maple Leafs avoided elimination with a 1-0 win the Carolina Hurricanes, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. Darcy Tucker’s power-play tally late in the first period was the game’s only goal.
The Anaheim Ducks avoided an epic collapse, on May 25, 2015, in their 5-4 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. The Ducks built a 3-0 lead and were up 4-2 with less than two minutes to play. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored a pair of goals, with the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, to force overtime. Matt Beleskey gave the Ducks a 3-2 series lead just 45 seconds into the extra time. This would be their final win of the season as the Blackhawks won the next two contests to win the conference championship.
Exactly one year later, the San Jose Sharks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues, in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. Longtime teammates Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both headed to the championship series for the first time in their careers. Their combined total of 2,478 games played was the most by any pair of teammates making the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in NHL history.
Chris Kunitz was the hero for the Penguins, on May 25, 2017, in their 3-2 double-overtime win over the Ottawa Senators, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. After not scoring a single goal in the playoffs so far, Kunitz scored the Penguins’ first goal of the game as well as the game-winner in the second time to send Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season.
Happy Birthday to You
There is a group of 24 current and former NHL players who were born on this date. This list includes Nick Fotiu (68), Robert Picard (63), Ric Nattress (58), David Shaw (56), Kyle Brodziak (36), Matt Murray (26), Joel Kellman (26), Matt Benning (26), David Pastrnak (24) and Janne Kuokkanen (22).