The Stanley Cup Playoffs are exciting for a number of different reasons but the biggest reason might be the fact that there is the potential for unlimited overtimes. Unlike regular season games that used to end in draws and now end in shootouts after one overtime, some of the greatest games in league postseason history have taken advantage of their fair share of overtime to build the tension for iconic moments. These three marathon matchups in particular are memorable as some of the best playoff games the league has ever seen.
Flyers vs. Penguins - 2000
What makes playoff overtime hockey so special is the fact that once regulation ends, the game can end at any point. That leads to a tension building and building from the beginning of the first overtime until the end of the game, when a goal can send a crowd into euphoria or stunned silence depending on which team finally gets their breakthrough. In the case of the Flyers and Penguins in the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the tension built over the course of five overtime periods, before finally being put to rest by Keith Primeau of the Flyers.
Momentum is a huge part of any hockey series, and this one was no exception. After this wild finish, the Flyers were able to go the rest of the series without losing a game. They got the better of the Penguins by a 4-2 margin in the series and were able to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for an epic clash with the New Jersey Devils. But to get there, they had to win a game that went on for so long that it was rumored that the players had to order pizzas between periods to keep themselves going.
Ducks vs. Stars - 2003
During the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim's run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003, they played one of the great marathon hockey games in the history of the NHL's postseason. They did so in the first game of their Western Conference semifinal matchup with the Dallas Stars, where they set the tone for one of many upsets they would pull in that postseason. It took five overtimes, but the Ducks got a goal from Petr Sykora to get the first game under their belts.
What was great about this game is that there were so many moments of excitement before the tension-building overtimes. These two teams traded punches throughout the game, with the Ducks taking a 3-1 lead in the game before the Stars managed to score two straight to push the game into overtime in the first place. It was the kind of game that was worth sticking with for the hours and hours it raged on for, as a piece of hockey history was written in the Lone Star State.
Canucks vs. Stars - 2007
Another amazing curtain-raising game for a postseason series came in 2007 when the first round of the playoffs saw the Canucks and Stars cram two games worth of hockey into one with a four overtime contest to open their series. Scoring was not an issue for either team in this game, with four goals being scored by each team heading into overtime. Naturally, those eight goals gave way to over 80 minutes of scoreless overtime play before the Canucks got the final breakthrough from the Sedins.
This game was a microcosm of the series as a whole, which saw the Canucks advance in seven games. Of those seven games, three of the contests went to overtime, with Vancouver winning two of those elongated matchups. Unfortunately for the Canucks, the next round saw them run into the red-hot Anaheim Ducks team that eventually won the Stanley Cup.