Oilers are the latest team to attempt a comeback from 3-0 deficit

ByKalan Hooks ESPN logo
Friday, June 21, 2024

The Edmonton Oilers are on the prowl to make a comeback in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Florida Panthers.

After the Oilers powered to a 5-3 victory over the Panthers in Game 5, Edmonton improved its chances of hoisting its sixth Stanley Cup and first since 1990. Oilers center Connor McDavidhad four points in the win, bringing him five points away from Wayne Gretzky's single playoff points record of 47.

The Panthers had the opportunity to end the series two games ago, but Edmonton bounced back in Game 4 with an 8-1 blowout win over Florida to stay alive.

If the Oilers come back from their 3-0 deficit, they will become the second team in Stanley Cup Finals history to do so. The Toronto Maple Leafsdid it against the Detroit Red Wings in 1942.

If not, they'll become the second team to fail to complete a 3-0 comeback in the Final since the Red Wings in 1945 when they lost to the Maple Leafs.

Here are some other successful and unsuccessful comebacks from 3-0 deficits in professional sports playoff history.


Successful comebacks

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings

Year: 1942

In the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals, the Red Wings took a 3-0 lead after scoring a total of 12 goals through the three games, while the Maple Leafs only managed six goals.

The Maple Leafs took an early 2-0 lead in Game 4 before the Red Wings fought back with two goals to tie the game at the half. Maple Leafs left wing Nick Metz scored a game-winning goal to secure a 4-3 win.

Toronto built momentum on that victory with a 9-3 rout in Game 5 led by Metz's brother Don's three goals and two assists.

Both teams showed competitive poise in Game 6, staying scoreless until Metz's defensive efforts turned into offense to help the Maple Leafs punch first. Billy Taylor and Bob Goldham scored a goal apiece in the third period to clinch a 3-0 win, forcing a Game 7.

With 16,218 fans in the stands, Maple Leafs center Pete Langelle clinched the series in a goal scramble for a Game 7 comeback victory over the Red Wings.

New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Year: 1975

The Islanders found themselves in a 3-0 hole against the Penguins in the quarterfinals of the 1975 Stanley Cup playoffs.

On the brink of elimination, the Islanders got on the scoreboard first from an Andre St Laurent goal. Two more goals from J.P. Parise and Clark Gillies clinched a 3-1 Game 4 victory.

In Game 5, however, the Penguins leveled up in their efforts to eliminate New York by attempting twice as many shots as the Islanders. An Ed Westfall power-play goal helped New York secure a 4-2 win.

Chico Resch was nearly unbreakable in Game 6, stopping 39 of 40 shots in a 4-1 win. Resch demonstrated the same defensive abilities in Game 7 before Westfall made a walk-off shot to advance to the semifinals.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins

Year: 2010

Boston's 3-0 lead seemed like a done deal until Bruins center David Krejci broke his wrist in Game 3. That allowed Philadelphia to fly to three straight wins, forcing a Game 7.

The Bruins scored the first three goals in Game 7 before James Van Riemsdyk got Philadelphia on the board. The Flyers tied things at 3 in the second period. Simon Gagne's game-winning third-period goal clinched the most remarkable series comeback in Flyers franchise history.

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

Year: 2014

After San Jose won their first three games, it became all about the Kings -- especially in their Game 7 rally.

The Sharks fell apart defensively in Game 7, with the Kings cruising to an easy 5-1 win.

Unsuccessful Comebacks

New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins

Year: 1939

The Rangers pulled off an exciting win in Game 5 of the 1939 Stanley Cup semifinals after New York center Clint Smith scored a walk-off goal in overtime. That momentum turned into a 3-1 Game 6 win to force a Game 7 against Boston.

However, the Bruins wouldn't make the final game easy for New York. Boston punched first with a Ray Getliffe goal in the second period. Rangers defenseman Muzz Patrick answered in the same period, leaving things tied in the remaining regulation periods.

It wasn't until the third overtime when Boston right wing Mel Hill scored a game-winning goal to send the Bruins to the division final, ending New York's season.

Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs


After the Maple Leafs made a successful comeback against the Red Wings in the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals, Toronto wanted to relive history.

Instead of being down 3-0, the Maple Leafs found themselves on the other side of the series. But this time, Detroit would push to force a Game 7.

With the score tied at 1-1, Maple Leafs defenseman Babe Pratt converted a game-winning goal in the third period that stopped the comeback.

New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers


The Islanders had just overcome a 3-0 deficit against the Penguins, which seemed to catch up to them in the 1975 Stanley Cup semifinals against the Flyers.

After pulling out an overtime win in Game 4 to give New York momentum going into Game 5, the Islanders blew out Philadelphia 5-1. The Islanders forced a Game 7, but Philadelphia advanced with a 4-1 victory in Game 7.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks


The Canucks lost to the Blackhawks the previous two seasons in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Vancouver wanted to turn the tables this time around, holding a 3-0 lead. With blowout wins in Games 4 and 5, Chicago became as dominant as ever, forcing a Game 7 with a walk-off goal by Ben Smith.

Vancouver won in Game 7, however, after Alexandre Burrows returned the favor to the Canucks with a game-winning goal in overtime.

Detroit Red Wings vs San Jose Sharks


The Red Wings didn't hand the Sharks their 3-0 lead easily -- they won each game by just one goal. Similar to how San Jose gained its lead, though, Detroit would make its comeback by winning three consecutive games by one goal.

In Game 7 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals, however, San Jose gained an early 2-0 lead in the first period causing Detroit to play catch-up. But, ultimately the Red Wings fell one goal short, 3-2, of completing their comeback.


Unsuccessful comebacks

New York Knicks vs. Rochester Royals


The Knicks appeared in their first NBA Finals in 1951 after defeating the Syracuse Nationals in the division finals. The Royals jumped to a 3-0 lead, before the Knicks knotted the series up behind Max Zaslofsky's 23 points in Game 6. Royals center Arnie Risen's 24-point, 13-rebound performance in Game 7 secured the NBA title for Rochester.

Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz


The Nuggets became the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed after getting past the Seattle Supersonics to play in the 1994 Western Conference semifinals.

Denver fell down 3-0 against the Utah Jazz, but forced a Game 7. Karl Malone's 31 points and 14 rebounds ended the Nuggets' hopes of advancing to the Western Conference finals.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks


Dirk Nowitzki dominated the 2003 NBA playoffs. Through three games of the Western Conference first round, he averaged 37.6 points per game to catapult Dallas to a 3-0 lead over Portland.

Bonzi Wells, however, took the initiative to facilitate the Trail Blazers' comeback. He led the team in scoring, averaging 19 points per game through the series. But Nowitzki was too much in Game 7 -- his 31 points and 11 rebounds ended Portland's fairytale.

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat


After losing to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics embarked on another journey for a title. There was only one issue -- Jimmy Butler or "Playoff Jimmy."

Like Boston, Butler wanted revenge after being eliminated by Tatum and company in the 2022 Eastern Conference finals.

Tatum's 33 points in Game 4 helped stave off elimination and a last-second Derrick White game-winner in Game 6 forced a seventh meeting.

But Miami's dominant 55-41 first half and Butler's 28 points in a Game 7 win capped Boston's season.


Successful comebacks

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees


The Red Sox were itching to get their revenge against the Yankees after being defeated in the 2003 American League Championship Series. After the Yankees won two games on their home field and a third at Fenway Park, Boston found themselves potentially repeating history.

In the bottom of the ninth of Game 4, New York held a 4-3 lead before a Bill Mueller single knotted the score at 4-4. David Ortiz hit a homer in the bottom of the 12th inning to save Boston's season.

Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera allowed the same outcome in Game 5, blowing another 4-3 New York lead.

At Yankee Stadium for Game 6, Mark Bellhorn's three-run homer gave Boston a 4-0 lead early in the fourth inning, allowing the Red Sox to hold tight for a 4-2 win.

In the top of the first inning in Game 7, Ortiz hit a two-run home run before Damon hit a grand slam in the second inning to give Boston a quick 6-0 lead.

They won 10-3 to clinch a World Series berth.

The Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to come back from a 3-0 deficit.

Unsuccessful comebacks

Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Year: 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the defending champion Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays played at Petco Park with no breaks between game days. Tampa Bay jumped to a 3-0 lead in the ALCS.

In Game 4, then-Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow walked Michael Brantley and Martin Maldonado before Jose Altuve had a two-RBI double. George Springer sealed the deal with a home run to give the Astros a 4-3 win, while Carlos Correa's Game 5 walk-off homer extended the series.

Houston began Game 6 trailing Tampa Bay 1-0. Houston scored four runs in the fifth inning to propel itself to a win and Game 7 meeting.

However, Tampa Bay snagged a 4-0 lead going into the seventh inning of the final matchup. The Astros only managed two runs in the eighth, allowing the Rays to punch their ticket to the World Series.