The 5 Longest Games in NHL Playoff History

The 5 Longest Games in NHL Playoff History

Paul Kariya and Keith Carney of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim celebrate a victory over the Dallas Stars in the 2003 Western Conference Stanley Cup semifinals. | Donald Miralle/Getty Images

It will soon be time for the 2016 NHL playoffs, which means you better hope that your job has a rather liberal attendance policy. Why? You never know if the game will last the standard three periods or if you will be chugging coffee sometime after midnight, occasionally glancing at your watch and wondering if either team will ever score a goal.

That’s right, folks; it’s the time of year when fans have no clue when the game will end. There’s no three-on-three, five-minute overtime period. There’s no shootout if that overtime period doesn’t end it. Oh no, these teams will compete until a winner is decided with five-on-five play. You may get a 60-minute game or you may see a game that creeps into the third, fourth, fifth or maybe even (please, no) sixth overtime period.

While a six-plus period hockey game may seem like heaven to a hardcore hockey fan, those with families or morning shift jobs know how painful supporting your team can be during the playoffs. To prepare you for what may be in store, we put together a list of the five longest games in NHL playoff history. If you think these long games are a thing of the past, well, think again; three of these games took place within the last 20 years.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals (1996)

The 5 Longest Games in NHL Playoff History

Center Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins | Staff Photo/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins were down two games to one to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 1996 Eastern Conference Playoffs when they took the ice in Washington D.C. for Game 4 on April 24. The Capitals opened the scoring in the first period on a goal by Michal Pivonka. In the second period the Capitals made it 2-0 on a Peter Bondra one-timer, seconds after Caps goalkeeper Olaf Kolzig made an amazing save on the Penguins Mario Lemieux.

The Penguins made it 2-1 when Jaromir Jagr scored while the team was down a man due to a penalty. That stanza came to an end with Lemieux losing his cool and throwing punches after a run-in with Todd Krygier, which saw Lemieux thrown from the game. The Penguins tied the game in the third with a Petr Nedved power-play goal with 12 minutes left in the third.

Both goaltenders played great during overtime, especially the Penguins’ Ken Wregget, who had to stop a penalty shot in the second overtime. With less than one minute left in the fourth overtime, Nedved scored his second goal of the game and the game concluded. All told, the teams played 139:15 of hockey that night.

4. Anaheim Mighty Ducks vs. Dallas Stars (2003)


The Anaheim Mighty Ducks started the first round of the 2003 Western Conference Playoffs strong, defeating the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings in four games. The opening game of that series went into three overtimes. Little did the Ducks know how that game would set the tone for the next two rounds. The Ducks started Game 1 of their second-round series with the Dallas Stars by jumping to a 1-0 lead on the strength of a Jason Krog goal.

The Stars tied it up four minutes later when Derian Hatcher scored his first of the playoffs. The Ducks then took back the lead, scoring two goals in the second period, including a shorthanded marker from Rob Niedermayer. However, the Stars stayed in the game with a late goal from Jason Arnott. With a one-goal lead late in the third period, it looked like the Ducks would win in regulation, but with just 2:47 left in the game, Brenden Morrow tied it up and sent the game into overtime.

With four overtimes complete, the game remained knotted at three. Then, 48 seconds into the fifth overtime, Petr Sykora won the game for Anaheim after his shot deflected off the stick of Jere Lehtinen and past goaltender Marty Turco. The Ducks won the series in six games, and then opened their Conference Final game against the Minnesota Wild in double overtime. The Ducks swept the Wild, but fell to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals, losing in seven games.

3. Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (2000)


The 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinal pitted the Philadelphia Flyers against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins opened the series by winning the first two games, defeating their cross-state rivals in Philly by scores of 2-0 and 4-1. When the series shifted back to Pittsburgh, the Flyers took the first game by a score of 4-3 in overtime.

Two days later the teams began Game 4. The Penguins jumped to an early lead, thanks to a goal by Alexei Kovalev just 2:22 into the game. The Flyers tied it up on a John LeClair power-play goal. That would be the end of the scoring for a long, long, long time.

The game dragged on into the next day, when finally, at the 12:01 mark of the fifth overtime, Keith Primeau snapped a beautiful shot past Penguins goalie Ron Tugnutt. The Flyers won the series 4-2, but they fell to the New Jersey Devils in the Conference Final, losing in seven games.

2. Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (1933)


If you glance at the names of the players who took part in the 1933 playoff series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, you’ll see a who’s who of hockey legends, including names like Eddie Shore, Dit Clapper, Charlie Conacher, King Clancy, Hap Day, and Ace Bailey. The series was tied when these two team met in Maple Leaf Gardens for the series-deciding game.

When regulation ended, neither team had scored and thus began the marathon of overtime periods it would take to decide which team would face the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. After more than 164 minutes of hockey, the first and only goal of the game was scored when Ken Doraty slipped the puck in the net for the Leafs. Toronto went on to lose the Cup to the Rangers.

1. Detroit Red Wings vs. Montreal Maroons (1936)


Teams never know what to expect when they enter a playoff series. Sure, you can scout and break down plays, but until those teams hit the ice, it’s all just theory and guesswork. One thing teams probably don’t expect is to open a playoff series by playing 176:30 of hockey before a single goal is scored, but that’s exactly what happened in the second round of the 1936 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Detroit Red Wings met the Montreal Maroons.

The long game ended in the sixth overtime when rookie Mud Bruneteau scored for Detroit. The shot that ended the game was the 67th of the night for Detroit. Meanwhile at the other end of the ice, Normie Smith, the Red Wings netminder, stopped 90 shots for the shutout victory. Detroit went on to win the series in three games and capture the Stanley Cup, besting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com and Hockey-Reference.com

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