Last time an NHL team completed 3-0 comeback in Stanley Cup Final: Revisiting Maple Leafs’ miracle in 1942

The Oilers are on the verge of history.

While they wouldn’t be the first team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit and win the Stanley Cup Final, they would be the first in several decades to complete the ultimate comeback for a championship.

Edmonton looked dead in the water after Game 3 when the Panthers needed just a road win to secure a rare Stanley Cup sweep. The Oilers avoided elimination, then avoided elimination again, and then avoided elimination a third time to even the series at three.

As demoralizing as the past three games have been for Florida, there is reason to still have hope. The Panthers are 2-1 at home in this series, and they watched as another South Florida team, the NBA’s Miami Heat, lost a 3-0 series lead in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals only to win Game 7 in convincing fashion. If the Oilers pull off the comeback, though, it will be an effort remembered forever.

Here’s a look back at the only other time a team overcame a 3-0 Stanley Cup Final deficit.

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Last 3-0 comeback in Stanley Cup Final

The last and only 3-0 comeback in Stanley Cup Final history belongs to the 1942 Maple Leafs, who dropped the first three games of their series against the Red Wings before winning four straight.

The landscape of the NHL was much different 82 years ago. The Maple Leafs and Red Wings were two of seven teams in the league, so getting to the Stanley Cup Final wasn’t as difficult of a feat as it is in today’s 32-team NHL. 

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Once Toronto got to the Final, however, everything went haywire. The Maple Leafs dropped the first two games at home, even falling behind 4-1 in Game 2. The Red Wings poured on five goals in Game 3 to take complete control of the series and went up 2-0 in what could’ve been a series-clinching Game 4 — that’s about as close as a team can get to winning a series without winning. 

Toronto’s Game 4 comeback was a success, and the Maple Leafs would score a whopping nine goals in Game 5 to reassert themselves in the series.

Come Game 7, the Red Wings actually struck first on a goal from Syd Howe but allowed three goals — including two by Sweeney Schriner — in the third period to complete a shocking meltdown.

Fast forward 82 years from a team led by Gordie Drillon and Syl Apps, the Oilers have a chance to become the second team to complete a 3-0 comeback in the Stanley Cup Final. One more win would cement Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl among the greats in Edmonton, as if they weren’t already, and it would snap Canada’s drought of 31 years without a Stanley Cup.

3-0 comebacks in NHL playoff history

There has only been one 3-0 comeback in Stanley Cup Final history, but there have been four total in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

The most recent 3-0 comeback happened in 2014 when the Kings won four consecutive games to stun the Sharks in the first round. It worked out pretty well for Los Angeles. The Kings rode that momentum all the way to their second Stanley Cup championship in three years, defeating the Rangers in the Final.

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Here’s a complete list of 3-0 comebacks in the NHL, courtesy of SN’s Bryan Murphy.

Team Year Round Opponent
Toronto Maple Leafs 1942 Stanley Cup Finals Detroit Red Wings
New York Islanders 1975 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals Pittsburgh Penguins
Philadelphia Flyers 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals Boston Bruins
Los Angeles Kings 2014 Western Conference First Round San Jose Sharks

NHL teams are 206-4 when going up 3-0 in a playoff series. The odds were once very much stacked against the Oilers, by their own doing, but all that stands between Edmonton and history right now is one more road win by McDavid and co.

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History of 3-0 playoff comebacks

The NHL is actually where 3-0 comebacks are by far the most common. Between MLB and the NBA, only one successful 3-0 comeback has ever happened — that was the 2004 Red Sox, who stunned the Yankees in the ALCS and went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series.

No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 series deficit in the playoffs. While 3-1 comebacks were all the rage in the mid-2010s, when the Clippers, Thunder, and Warriors all blew sizable series leads, NBA teams are 157-0 in series in which they held a 3-0 series lead.

Teams with a 3-0 series lead are 402-5 all-time between the NHL, NBA, and MLB. To say the odds were stacked against the Oilers just to push the Stanley Cup Final to this point would be an understatement. One more win would place Edmonton’s comeback among the most memorable in history.

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