The 13 best hockey games of 2013
Some were instant classics, 60 minutes (or more) of pure adrenaline where the result seemed to hang in the balance with every foray up the ice. Others required reflection, taking on real significance after time added some shading and contrast, allowing us to more deeply appreciate exactly what we'd seen.
Have a favorite of your own that didn't make the list? Add it to the conversation in the comment section below.
13. Maple Leafs 3, Sabres 2 in shootout (9/21/13)
No, this preseason tilt didn't count in the standings, and it wasn't even much to watch until Toronto's Jamie Devane and Jay McClement scored in the last 10 minutes to tie the game up and send it to overtime. But once there, it was a thrilling goaltending clinic that went to a 15-round shootout (tying the regular-season record) -- including Paul Ranger's had-to-see-it trick kick shot for the Maple Leafs -- before McClement beat Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth for the first and only goal on the 30th attempt.
12. Blackhawks 3, Avalanche 2 (3/6/13)
Up against a surprisingly feisty effort from Colorado, and battling a string of injuries, it seemed that Chicago might have run out of miracles to extend their season-opening points streak ... until a most unlikely hero emerged to keep it alive. Daniel Carcillo backhanded home the game-winning goal with just 49.3 seconds left in regulation to extend the Blackhawks' run of games with at least one point to 24 straight. It was Carcillo's first goal of the season.
11. Russia 6, Canada 5 in OT (1/5/13)
A shot at bronze isn't enough to get either of these teams out of bed in most years, but the chance to send the other home empty-handed? That'll inspire some emotional hockey. These two teams ditched their defenses in the medal round at the World Junior Championships and played messy, thrilling shinny for 60 minutes, then carried it into OT. That's when Valeri Nichushkin made his name with an end-to-end dash to seal it for the Russians.
Game 5 of this Eastern Conference first round playoff series was a battle between two superstars at the top of their games. Washington sniper Alex Ovechkin launched a game-high nine shots in a gritty, all-in performance while New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's resolve was tested by 35 shots, including 21 in the third period and overtime combined. Ultimately, Capitals forward Mike Ribeiro ended it 9:24 into the extra frame when he beat Lundqvist off of a deflection from a defenseman's skate. "Not pretty, but we'll take it," Ribeiro said of the winner. "That was a tough, tough game."
Shaky goaltending and a pair of high-octane offenses combined for one of those thrilling contests where no lead was safe and every rush seemed to end with a scoring chance. "That kind of game is great for the fans, but it's what gives coaches gray hair," said Montreal coach Michel Therrien after his team came out on the short end of a battle that saw five lead changes before it finally ended with Brandon Sutter's winner 52 seconds into overtime.
8. Blackhawks 3, Flames 2 (2/2/13)
This was the night when Ray Emery refused to let Chicago's season-opening points streak come to an end. In arguably the year's best performance by a goalie, Emery made 45 saves in regulation and overtime before denying three shootout attempts to keep the Blackhawks rolling. “You’ve got to call the cops after that performance," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. "We stole two points. He was spectacular." But as good as Emery was, his effort would have been forgotten if not for Marian Hossa's tying goal with just 2.1 seconds remaining -- perhaps the most clutch tally of the regular season.
7. Blackhawks 2, Red Wings 1 in OT (5/29/13)
Chicago had never come back from being down 3-1 in a series, but after winning Games 5 and 6 the Blackhawks returned home to the United Center with a chance to make franchise history ... against their most bitter rival, to boot. The two teams traded punches through 60 fast-paced minutes with Chicago's Patrick Sharp and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg scoring the only goals that counted in regulation -- Niklas Hjalmarsson’s potential game-winner for the Blackhawks was wiped out by referee Stephen Walkom's inexplicable penalty call late in the third period -- and Game 7 went to OT. The extra frame, however, was over almost too quickly: Brent Seabrook picked up a puck freed by a hard Dave Bolland hit, skated into the Red Wings' end and beat goalie Jimmy Howard high to the glove side to finish the comeback and close out the series.
Just four months after the franchise-altering trade that sent Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas, the duo returned to Boston for a reunion that was pretty much all Bruins until a sloppy line change with less than three minutes to play led to Vernon Fiddler's game-tying penalty shot goal for the Stars. Five fruitless overtime minutes set the stage for a shootout that proved the Hockey Gods love a Hollywood ending as much as anyone. After Patrice Bergeron gave Boston a 1-0 lead, Seguin silenced the chanting crowd with a spectacular goal that evened it up. Peverley then sealed the comeback win with slick wrister that beat goalie Tuukka Rask through the five hole. "That one felt good," Seguin said.
For the Los Angeles to advance against higher-seeded St. Louis, the Kings needed to take at least one game in on the road -- no small task for a team that had gone more than a month without a win away from home. Game 5 of this first-round series turned out to be arguably the best contest of the year's best postseason series as L.A. overcame what Blues coach Ken Hitchcock labeled "a tremendous effort" by his team. Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was brilliant -- especially during a seven-shot, second period penalty kill -- until he was fooled by Alex Pietrangelo's goal in the final seconds, which sent the contest to overtime. Quick shut the door in the extra session, allowing Slava Voynov to bag the win 12 minutes in. L.A. advanced two nights later.
4. Blackhawks 3, Bruins 2 (6/24/13)
This was the game that added "17 seconds" to "It gets through Buckner" and "Bucky f------ Dent" to the lexicon of Boston sports misery. A Milan Lucic goal with just under eight minutes remaining in Game 6 gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead and steered the Stanley Cup finals toward a winner-take-all Game 7 back in Chicago ... until Bryan Bickell tied it up (with Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford on the bench), setting the stage for Dave Bolland's series clincher moments later.
3. Blackhawks 4, Kings 3 in 2 OT (6/8/13)
They say if you want to be the champ, you have to beat the champ, and Los Angeles showed throughout the Western Conference finals that it would not relinquish the Cup without an epic fight. The decisive game in this series looked like it was in the books when Chicago's Patrick Kane scored the go-ahead goal at 16:08 of the third period, but then the Kings' Mike Richards tied it up with just 9.4 seconds on the clock to send it to OT. The two sides swapped chances in the extra frame until Kane snapped a Jonathan Toews pass over the glove of a diving Jonathan Quick to send Chicago to the Stanley Cup finals.
2. Bruins 5, Maple Leafs 4 in OT (5/13/13)
For nearly 50 minutes sharper, hungrier Toronto had Boston cornered, building up a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 lead ... until the Maple Leafs fell apart in a fashion so unimaginable that the Toronto Sun called it "a car crash in slow-motion speed." Nathan Horton's goal midway through the third period made it 4-2 and swung momentum the Bruins' way, but it wasn't until Milan Lucic scored to make it 4-3 with 1:22 remaining that a comeback really seemed possible. Patrice Bergeron forced overtime 31 seconds later, then drove home the dagger at 6:05 of the extra session, crushing the dreams of Toronto fans and sealing one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history.