Kolupanowich: Looking at the 10 longest playoff overtime games in NHL history

By: Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor
@TimKolupan_

The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues played in the first double-overtime game of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. (JeffBlay/CM)

We’re still only in the first round of the 2012 NHL playoffs and we’ve already seen eight overtime games, including the first multi-overtime game as the San Jose Sharks defeated the St. Louis Blues after 23:34 of extra hockey. And while those extended games can be fun and intense for the fans, they can take a toll on the players and those marathons that happen every now and then can leave a team too exhausted to advance any further.

Let’s take a look at the 10 longest games in NHL history and how the winner fared after.

1. 3/24/1936, Detroit Red Wings 1 at Montreal Maroons 0, 1:56:30
Mud Bruneteau put an end to the longest game in NHL history in the first game of the 1936 playoffs. The Red Wings would end up sweeping the series in three games and beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the next round 3-1 for the Stanley Cup.

2. 4/3/1933, Toronto Maple Leafs 1 vs. Boston Bruins 0, 1:44:46
The longest series-clinching game was ended by Ken Doraty, putting the Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup final against the New York Rangers. They would lose that series three games to one and get outscored 11-5.

3. 5/4/2000, Philadelphia Flyers 2 at Pittsburgh Penguins 1, 1:32:01
The longest game in modern history help the Flyers even their Eastern Conference semi-final series at two games apiece as Keith Primeau would make a move past Darius Kasparaitis before rocketing wrister over the shoulder of Ron Tugnett. The Flyers would win the series in six games after being down 2-0 and would build a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference final before falling apart and losing to New Jersey in seven games.

4. 4/24/2003, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 4 at Dallas Stars 3, 1:20:48
Both teams had a goal called back in overtime of the first game of this Western Conference semi-final before Petr Sykora put an official end to it just 48 seconds into the fifth overtime period. The Mighty Ducks would win the series in six games, sweep the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference final and make it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final before bowing out to the Devils. Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov would play 63:58 that game, the most ever recorded by a skater.

5. 4/24/1996, Pittsburgh Penguins 3 at Washington Capitals 2, 1:19:15
The game was 45 seconds from becoming just the third ever to reach a fifth overtime when Petr Nedved found a sliver of space over the shoulder of Olie Kolzig. The Penguins were down 2-1 to the Caps in their first round series going in to the game and would use the momentum of the win to take the series in six. The Penguins would win the semi-final over the Rangers in five games before losing to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference final in seven.

6. 4/7/2007, Vancouver Canucks 5 vs. Dallas Stars 4, 1:18:06
The Sedin brothers combined for the winner with Daniel finding Henrik from behind the net for a tap in past Marty Turco. The Canucks would take the conference quarter final in seven games, but lose to the Anaheim Ducks in five games the next round.

7. 3/23/1943, Toronto Maple Leafs 3 at Detroit Red Wings 2, 1:10:18
Jack McLean would help the Maple Leafs tie their first round series against the Wings at one game apiece, but in the end the Buds failed to take that momentum anywhere, losing the series in six games.

8. 5/4/2008, Dallas Stars 2 vs. San Jose Sharks 1, 1:09:03
The Sharks tried as hard as they could to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference semi final, but to no avail. Stars captain Brendan Morrow would tip in a shot from Stephane Robidas on the power play, sending the Stars to the Western Conference final where the would ultimately lose to the Red Wings in six games.

9. 3/28/1930, Montreal Canadiens 2 vs. New York Rangers 1, 1:08:52
In the first game of a three-game series, the Habs would defeat the Rangers on a Gus Rivers goal. A 1-0 win in Game 2 would put the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins where they would sweep the series in two games.

10. 4/18/1987, New York Islanders 3 at Washington Capitals 2, 1:08:47
Known as the ‘Easter Epic,’ the longest Game 7 in NHL history didn’t end until Pat LaFontaine’s turn-around slapper past Bob Mason nearly halfway through the fourth overtime. They would then lose the semi final to the Flyers in seven games.

A pattern?

Of course, these are just the 10 most extreme examples of the battle of will that is playoff overtime, but a pattern in clear.

Winning an overtime epic is a great confidence boost for a club as nine of the 10 winners of these games went on to win the series. However, the playoffs are hard enough as it is without adding in an extra game or two in a night. These games sap up any and all spare energy, leaving very little in the tank for the remainder of the playoffs. These teams are an even 29-29 in games played in all series after the one containing the long overtime game, 4-7 in the series themselves.

There is a wonderful exuberance that goes along with winning an overtime game in the playoffs, one that can carry a team for a little while. But they will also pay a price. After 82 regular season games, teams essentially have to sprint a marathon to win the Stanley Cup and they need every bit of reserve energy to make that happen. Spending too much energy to win one night can and will cost them later. The best option is to win the games as quickly, but sometimes, at the mercy of the goaltenders, that just isn’t an option.

The Flyers ran out of steam in 2000 then again three years later. They played three multi-overtime games against the Maple Leafs in the first round for a total of 1:52:05 of hockey in addition to what was already a highly physical seven game series. That’s almost nine games total in just the first round. They ended up being smoked in the next round by the Senators; after tying the series at two, the Sens won Games 5 and 6 by a combined 10-3. The Flyers had used all their energy just to get to that point and completely fell apart.

Therein lies the problem. In the playoffs, you have to win every game any way you can because to even have a chance later one, you have to get there first. There were 14 overtime games in last season’s first round alone; there have already been four this year.

Will these games have an effect on the final outcome this year? We can only wait and find out.

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