St. Louis Blues: Greatest Games #2
Next up on our list of greatest games in St. Louis Blues history is the Monday Night Miracle. Before the Blues came back against the Maple Leafs in 2000, this game was the best comeback in team history. With a Stanley Cup berth on the line, trailing 3 games to 2, the Blues had to have a special game to stave off elimination and they gave it to us.
The Blues, an underdog team all season, finished 3rd in the Norris Division in the 1985-86 season. In the Norris Semifinals, they defeated the Minnesota North Stars and the had an epic 7 game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Norris Finals. In the Campbell Conference Finals the Blues would face the powerhouse Calgary Flames.
After splitting the first 4 games, the Flames took game 5 at home to push the Blues to the edge. But even with their backs to the wall, the Blues were confident coming back to the packed and rocking Arena for game 6.
After a scoreless first period the Flames pounced on the underdog Blues and built up a 4-1 lead after two periods. Fans were shocked by the turn of events after this team had played so hard for the first five games. But, alas, they could not count out this team and the Blues would prove them to be right a short period later.
Nearing the end of a 5 on 3 power play, Blues forward Doug Wickenheiser finally got the team back in the game with his first goal of the game. With the crowd starting to get back behind the team, though, Joe Mullen silenced it right back up as he put in Calagry’s 5th goal shortly after the power play goal.
The Blues would not give up without a prolonged fight. Down 5-2, Captain Brian Sutter got a deflection goal against Mike Vernon and yet again the lead was trimmed to two goals. The clock continued to tick away time and as it approached 8 minutes to go the Blues needed someone to step up.
That someone was Greg Paslawski, who had only managed to play in 56 games during the regular season. With 8 minutes left in their season, Paslawski found the puck on his stick and was able to beat Vernon send the crowd into a frenzy as the Blues pulled within 1 goal.
The Flames held strong, though, and the Blues could not muster another big offensive push as the time continued to dwindle. With under 2 minutes to go the Flames gained control of the puck in their zone and defenseman Jamie Macoun started behind his net.
Macoun was unaware that Paslawski was swooping in behind him and before he could stop him, stole the puck right off his stick. Paslawski quickly whipped around the net and fired a shot at Vernon. Not fully prepared for the quick play, Vernon was slow to react and the bad angle shot of Paslawski snuck past his pad and the Arena almost fell off its moorings. This game was tied and, for a time, the Blues had stopped the season from ending.
Game 6 was heading to overtime and the crowd was ready to lose control, but the Blues had plenty of work left to do. In the opening minutes of overtime, Calgary defensemen and future Blue Al MacInnis and Wickenheiser traded chances but both goalies were up to the task. Joe Mullen almost ended the contest a quarter of the way through overtime as his shot beat the Blues goalie but hit the post.
At the 7:30 mark the time had come for a hero to make his mark and it was one of the least expected guys to do it. Doug Wickenheiser had only skated in 36 games for the Blues that season and only amassed 8 goals and 11 assists in the that time frame. But this game would make him a larger than life hero and it was thanks to broadcaster Ken Wilson.
“Here’s Ramage, for Federko too far, Federko steals the puck from Reinheart, over to Hunter who shoots, blocked, Wicknheiser scores! Doug Wickenheiser! The Blues pull it off and its unbelievable.” (Ken Wilson, Monday Night Miracle, Youtube)
With that goal and that call the Arena blew up as fans and the team celebrated like it was the Stanley Cup winner. The Blues had avoided the Grim Reaper of playoff elimination and would live for another game, two nights later in Calgary.
Even though the Blues would fight to the end, the Flames would end up winning game 7, 2-1, and would go on to win the Stanley Cup. But Blues fans would not forget the Miracle on Monday night and its hero Doug Wickenheiser, whose only two goals in the playoffs that season came in this game.
Wickenheiser would battle lung cancer in the 1990′s and would succumb to the disease at age 37. The 14 Fund would later be established in his honor and the logo of a candle wick and his number, 14, would be raised to the rafters in 1999.
Coming up in our next segment, the game that would affectionately become known as the “Hat Day” Game.