DETROIT - MAY 14: Dan Cleary #11 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his third period game winning goal behind Francois Beauchemin #23 and Ryan Getzlaf #15 during Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup …
Photographer: (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Inside the brain of every sports fan is a small spot specifically designated for memorable moments. In this special space are indelible recollections of magical achievement and crushing disappointment.
The ebbs and flows, highs and lows, joys and sorrows – they all live here, called to the forefront when recalling the “where you were” moments in life.
As Red Wings fans prepare for tonight’s Game 7 against San Jose, many of these morsels are resurfacing. Chats around water-coolers across Michigan rekindle the heart palpitations of a lost edge, an ill-timed penalty, a legendary shot, a dominating effort, a game-winning goal.
We look back at the last five postseason Game 7's, remembering the moments that have stood the test of time.
Flashback – May 16, 1996
After trailing the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Red Wings evened the series in St. Louis with a 4-2 victory, setting the stage for one of the most dramatic decisive games in franchise history.
Led by Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull, the Blues were poised to make a run at the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings, meanwhile, were developing the chemistry that ultimately would lead to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1997 and 1998.
In an epic defensive battle, the Blues and Red Wings played scoreless into a second overtime. Less than 70 seconds in, Gretzky misplayed a puck at the Red Wings blue line. Steve Yzerman gathered it just shy of the center circle and with a ferocious slap shot from the St. Louis blue line, made an indelible mark in Red Wings history books.
With the 1-0 win, Detroit advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where the Red Wings lost to Colorado in another epic series that featured seven overtime periods in six games.
Flashback – May 31, 2002
An overtime win at Joe Louis Arena by Colorado in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals gave the Avalanche a 3-2 series lead. The Red Wings answered the challenge in Game 6, winning 2-0 to force a Game 7 in Detroit.
In one of the most highly-anticipated games in NHL history, the Red Wings crushed their fiercest rival, scoring four goals in the first period and sending Hall-of-Fame goaltender Patrick Roy to the bench less than seven minutes into the second period.
The 7-0 victory advanced Detroit to the Stanley Cup Finals, where the Red Wings beat Carolina in five games for the franchise’s 10th championship.
Flashback – May 14, 2009
A grueling series between the last two Stanley Cup champions was settled in a decisive Game 7 when the Red Wings hosted the Anaheim Ducks at Joe Louis Arena.
Throughout the first six games, each team had defended its home ice, yet the Red Wings almost let the final game slip away.
Protecting a 3-2 lead entering the third period, the Wings surrendered the game-tying goal when Jonathan Ericsson lost his balance on a loose stick behind the net, inhibiting his ability to clear the puck. Seconds later, Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan tied the game with a wrist shot.
In a moment best described as deafening, the Red Wings went ahead when Dan Cleary jammed the go-ahead goal past Jonas Hiller with three minutes to play in the third period.
With the 4-3 win, the Red Wings advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where they would beat Chicago en route to a second straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Flashback – June 12, 2009
Undoubtedly the most painful Game 7 memory for Red Wings fans.
A resounding 5-0 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals gave Detroit a 3-2 series lead over Pittsburgh. For the second straight year, the Red Wings traveled to Pennsylvania with the hope of clinching another championship.
The Penguins won Game 6, forcing a decisive Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena.
After a scoreless first period, Pittsburgh struck twice in the second. Maxime Talbot netted both goals for the Penguins.
Jonathan Ericsson injected life into the crowd with a third period goal that cut the lead in half, but the series would end with the Red Wings frantically trying to net the game-tying goal. Nicklas Lidstrom failed to score in the final seconds and Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup.
Flashback – April 27, 2010
A seven-game series against Phoenix was the last thing an injury-plagued, weary Red Wings team needed as they looked to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but with a 5-2 win at Joe Louis Arena in Game 6, the Coyotes earned the opportunity to eliminate the two-time defending Western Conference champions on their home ice in Glendale.
Pavel Datsyuk single-handedly assured the Coyotes wouldn’t stand a chance in Game 7, scoring twice in the second period as the Wings opened a 4-1 lead with twenty minutes to play.
Two third period goals made the final score 6-1 and the Red Wings advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals, where they would lose to San Jose in five games.
What will happen tonight? What memories will be etched in that small part of our brain? This is why we watch. This is why we're sports fans.
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