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Top 10 Most Unbelievable NHL Comebacks

As a sports fan, there is perhaps no greater emotion then watching your team finish off a heroic comeback. Conversely, there is no greater disappointment than watching your team disintegrate before your very eyes. Whether it's in the playoffs or a simple regular season game, true athletes understand the depth of determination and grit that is necessary to pull off a great comeback; to resurrect one’s team from the brink of despair and defeat. When lesser individuals are packing it in for the season, when the bandwagon jumpers have left their seats to get a head start on traffic, loyalty shines through and genuine fans stay strapped to their seats, knowing that the game's never over until the final horn. A true competitor never gives up hope and keeps playing- even when, especially when the odds are seemingly insurmountable.

In honour of the Minnesota Wild’s come-from-behind win against the New York Islanders last week, We're taking a look at some of the most epic comebacks in NHL history. From the Miracle on Manchester to the Maple Leafs’ meltdown in Beantown in 2013, these wins are so improbable that even the most daring Hollywood screenwriter couldn’t dream them up.

Every sports fan loves to root for the underdog and hockey is no exception. In the midst of the Miracle on Manchester at the Forum in Los Angeles, the Kings’ play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson marveled at the spectacle he was witnessing: “I started looking around the building and just about everyone was standing and reacting in disbelief as to what they just witnessed. There was a distinct feeling, a buzz from the crowd, and it was as if everyone was thinking the same thing…‘My God, did I really just see what I saw?” 

P.S. Is it at all surprising that there is some crossover between the Top 10 Heartbreaking Losses in Leafs’ History and Top 10 Epic NHL Comebacks?

11 Quebec Nordiques vs. Calgary Flames, 1989

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10 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. St. Louis Blues, 2000

9 Florida Panthers vs. Colorado Avalanche, 1999

8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Calgary Flames, 1987

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7 Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks, 2011

Comebacks are difficult at the highest level of hockey, but they are even more difficult in the playoffs against a team built on the back of defensive stalwarts and backed by an elite goaltender in Jonathan Quick. Tied 1-1 in their best of seven series, the Kings jumped out to a 4-0 early lead (and had scored eight unanswered in the series). San Jose would score five goals in the second to even things up and after a scoreless third period, Devin Setoguchi would bury the game winner three minutes into overtime. The game marked just the second time in NHL playoff history that a team had rallied after going down four goals or more.

6 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota North Stars, 1985

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5 Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens, 1971

4 St. Louis Blues vs. Los Angeles Kings, 1998

3 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins, 2013

“That’s one thing you’re probably going to remember for the rest of your life,” stated an exuberant and emphatic Johnny Boychuk. I can assure you it is seared into the minds and memories of every Leafs fan. With Toronto leading 4-1 and just 14:31 remaining on the clock, Leafs Nation was in a (far too premature) frenzy. It appeared the Leafs were going to complete a great comeback, as they were ahead by three in a Game 7 after having trailed the series 3-1. Nathan Horton would get one back for Boston midway through the third. Boston would then score two goals with just 82 seconds remaining and Patrice Bergeron would seal the deal six minutes into the overtime frame. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Toronto’s loss in Boston was the worst Game 7 collapse in NHL history. Leafs Defenseman Cody Franson summed it up, reflecting that “We had a chance to win this series, and we gave it away… It’s that simple. We gave it to them."

2 Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings, 1982

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The Miracle on Manchester tops our list as the largest deficit ever surmounted by an NHL team during the post-season. The Edmonton Oilers dominated that year and, in just their third season in the league, finished 48 points ahead of Los Angeles. Tied 1-1, the series shifted to the Forum in Los Angeles for Game 3 and Edmonton came storming out of the gates, going into the third period with a commanding 5-0 lead. In later interviews, Gretzky and some of his teammates admitted they had been laughing at the seemingly inept Kings during the second intermission. “The only thing we talked about between the second and third periods was the fact that they were laughing at us. We wanted to play hard in the third and earn back some respect,” remembered Kings head coach Don Perry.

They earned back that respect and the laughter ended abruptly after a devastating third period in which the Kings scored five unanswered, including the game-tying goal with just five seconds left. From there, the result was almost a foregone conclusion and L.A. would complete the comeback just 2:35 in the overtime frame. As for the great Gretzky, he would eventually leave Edmonton for Los Angeles in 1988 in what became known around Canada simply as “The Trade”.

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Top 10 Most Unbelievable NHL Comebacks