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Gretzky’s Greatest

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Wayne Gretzky puts the L.A Kings into the Stanley Cup finals for the first time ever, in 1993, by scoring a hat trick in the 7th and final game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also added an assist.
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It’s hard to come up with Wayne Gretzky’s single greatest game, considering he rewrote almost every NHL offensive record during his amazing career. However, if there was one game that stands out in the career of the league’s all-time leading scorer, it was probably the seventh and final game of the Stanley Cup semi-final series between Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings and the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 29th 1993.

However, there are millions of fans who argue that the series never should have reached seven games. The Maple Leafs hadn’t been in a Stanley Cup Final since last winning the Cup way back in 1967, but were just one win away from advancing as they held a 3-2 lead in the series.

It had been one of the most exciting series in years with excellent goaltending, big hits, toe-to-toe fights and a heck of a lot of drama. Most leafs fans thought this would be the year the team finally made it back to the finals and had a good chance of beating their arch enemy the Montreal Canadiens.

The Leafs had held Gretzky in check during most of the series and Kings fans were afraid that ‘The Great One’ had lost his scoring touch and leadership. But before game 6 in Los Angeles on May 27th, Gretzky, the Kings’ captain, promised his teammates if they won it he would personally make sure they also took game 7 back in Toronto two days later.

The Kings had a 4-3 lead late in game six, but the Leaf’s Wendel Clark tied it 4-4 after Toronto goalie Felix Potvin was pulled for an extra attacker with about a minute to go. It was one of the best and most dramatic goals in Leafs history and Clark’s third beautiful goal of the night. It looked like the hockey gods had finally shone on Toronto and they had a chance to end the series in overtime right then and there.

However, the Leafs never do anything easy and Glenn Anderson took a stupid boarding penalty with just seconds to go in the game, meaning the Kings would start the overtime on the power play if they didn’t score in the remaining few seconds of the match.

When overtime started, Gretzky high-sticked Toronto’s leading scorer Doug Gilmour in the face and he was bleeding pretty badly. It appeared obvious to Leafs fans all over the world that Gretzky would receive a five-minute major penalty and a game-misconduct. But incredibly, referee Kerry Fraser didn’t call a thing. Sceptics immediately knew that it was curtains for the Leafs at that moment. And they weren’t wrong, Gretzky, who should have been in the showers by then, scored the winning goal just seconds later, forcing a game seven.

It was do or die now for both teams at historic Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, with the winner facing Montreal in the finals. Gretzky was determined to put Los Angeles into the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in history and that was scary news for the Leafs and their fans. He opened the scoring midway through the first period with a shorthanded goal on a two-on-one with teammate Marty McSorley. The Kings went up 2-0 later on in the first period when Gretzky set up Tomas Sandstrom for a goal.

The Leafs weren’t dead yet though and captain Clark narrowed the margin to 2-1, allowing Anderson to tie it up at 2-2. The Leafs had momentum on their side, but Kings coach Barry Melrose called a time out to rally his troops. The Leafs continued to dominate though, but couldn’t take the lead. Gretzky intercepted a pass and headed up ice with Sandstrom. Gretzky beat Toronto’s Kent Manderville in the Leafs’ zone then fired a slap shot behind Potvin to take the lead 3-2 after two periods.

It didn’t take Toronto long to tie the game again as Clark scored early in the third period for his fifth goal in the last two games. It remained 3-3 as both teams missed some glorious scoring chances. But with about four minutes to go in the game Los Angeles jumped out in front 4-3 on a rebound goal by Mike Donnelly. It looked like it was going to be tough for Toronto to come back again and it looked even tougher about a minute later when Gretzky took the puck into the Leafs end and circled behind the net with it.

There were no other Kings in sight, but Leafs’ defenceman Dave Ellett was standing in front of the net. Gretzky centred the puck and it deflected off of Ellet’s skate and into the net behind a helpless and startled Potvin. The Kings looked certain to be headed to the final with a 5-3 lead late in the game and the Great One had a hat trick and an assist. He had also scored four of the Kings’ last six goals in the series.

To their credit though, Toronto never gave up and Ellet scored to make it 5-4 with about a minute to go in the game. But it was never to be, as Gretzky had fulfilled his promise to his teammates by almost single-handedly winning game seven for them. His hat trick was also the last one scored in the seventh game of an NHL series. However, Gretzky’s luck ran out with that game in Toronto in 1993 as Montreal took the Stanley Cup by beating Los Angeles four games to one.

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