Worst single-game playoff knockouts since the Yzerman era began

the sight of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby celebrating on the ice at The Joe was too much for most Red Wings fans to bear.

The sight of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby celebrating on the ice at The Joe was too much for most Red Wings fans to bear.

A deflection off Niklas Kronwall slips by Jimmy Howard, and that’s it? It’s over?

Destiny is a cruel mistress.

How could this happen after that euphoric Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena? It was so electric, so deafening. How could this happen after a 3-1 series lead? And a 2-1 lead heading into the third period of Game 6?

Sigh.

It was a terrific run, one that exceeded expectations, one that should make every die-hard Red Wings fan proud. There’s such a fine line between winning and losing, and the Wings, were just one shot away from the next round.

The future is bright in Hockeytown, but in the meantime, this Game 7 crushing defeat delivered by Brent Seabrook makes us seasick.

So where does this rank among the worst “single-game playoff knockouts” since the Yzerman era began? No doubt it stings, but it doesn’t crack the top five.

5.) 2001 Game 6 at L.A. Kings

The Wings jumped out to a 2-0 series lead and appeared poised to sweep the Kings for the second straight year, but that never happened because of a stunning rally and two key injuries.

The Kings pulled off a jaw-dropping miracle of a comeback during Game 4 at the Staples Center. Detroit was ahead 3-0 with 6:07 left in regulation, yet coughed it away, then lost in overtime.

Detroit held a 2-1 lead mid-way through the third period of game 6, then saw notorious Wing-killer Adam Deadmarsh tie the game, and then score the series winner at the 4:48 mark of overtime.

Steve Yzerman played 5:58 of Game 1 and missed the rest of the series. Initially, it was believed he had a sprained ankle, but later it was reported that Yzerman’s left fibula was fractured in Philadelphia with four games left in the regular season.

Brendan Shanahan had two goals and an assist in a 5-3 Game 1 victory at Joe Louis Arena, but then broke his foot and missed four of the next five games, including the Game 6 ouster. Who knows? with those two legends on the ice, maybe this series would have turned out different.

4.) 1993 Game 7 vs. Toronto

Toronto’s Doug Gilmour tied the score 3-3 with 2:43 left in regulation and a feeling of doom swept through Joe Louis Arena. The overtime intermission was as gut-wrenching as it gets, and sure enough, horror struck when Shawn Burr lost his stick inside the Wings’ zone and skated to the bench, creating a defacto Toronto power play.

The puck made its way to Leafs defenseman Bob Rouse and Wings goalie Tim Cheveldae decided to cut off the angle. Rouse, however, fooled Cheveldae with a fake-shot, slap-pass toward the direction of Nikolai Borschevsky, who tipped it into a wide-open net.

Game over. Series over. Season over.

A Wings team that scored a league-high 369 goals in the regular season – led by Steve Yzerman’s 137 points – saw its hopes of a deep run die in the first round.

3.) 1994 Game 7 vs. San Jose

This was an era when the NHL employed the 2-3-2 format for travel purposes. The Wings dropped Games 4 and 5 at San Jose, a third-year franchise, and returned to Joe Louis Arena down 3-2 in the series.

The Wings annihilated San Jose 7-1 in Game 6, thanks to a four-goal first period. But the dreadful memories of the previous year still loomed in the minds of Wings fans as the decisive seventh game approached.

San Jose jumped ahead 2-0 in Game 7, but Kris Draper scored with 13 seconds left in the first period as Joe Louis Arena erupted in hope. Slava Kozlov tied it in the second period, and it stayed that way through a majority of the third.

Then devastation struck.

Wings rookie goalie Chris Osgood misplayed a puck along the boards to Jamie Baker, who fired it into an open net as Ozzie scrambled to return. Just 6:35 was left in regulation, and as the time ticked away, it felt like a slow walk toward the gallows.

It was another crushing blow for the Wings, who rode the efforts of NHL MVP Sergei Fedorov (56 goals, 64 assists) to the top seed in the conference, yet lost to the eighth-seeded Sharks. Afterward, the 21-year old Osgood cried in front of reporters.

2.) 1999: Game 6 vs. Colorado

When a team relinquishes the Cup, the sting of losing is more agonizing. This one was double the pain as the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings lost on home ice to the arch-rival Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado opened a 4-0 lead in Game 6 on Chris Osgood, who allowed three goals in a span of 4:02 in the early stages of the second period. The thoughts of another parade down Woodward Avenue slipped further and further away as Colorado cushioned its lead, including a back-breaking fourth goal by Joe Sakic, who stuffed an apparent covered puck through Osgood for a short-handed tally.

Nicklas Lidstrom and Darren McCarty scored two goals 29 seconds apart at the end of the second period to give Wings fans hope of a miracle comeback. A 4-2 deficit entering the third seemed surmountable, as the Wings threatened to score several times in the third. But a turnover by Igor Larionov led to a breakaway by Peter Forsberg, who put away the contest with 6:29 left for a 5-2 Colorado win.

It was a stunning exit because the Wings opened a 2-0 series lead in the second-round battle, winning both games at higher-seeded Colorado despite not having Osgood, who was injured. The Avs, however, eventually took advantage of backup goalie Bill Ranford and chased him out of the net in Games 3 and 4.

The classy Joe Louis Arena crowd chanted “Let’s Go Red Wings” in the final seconds, a tribute to the majestic two-year run that featured tense moments, thrilling goals, and euphoric celebrations.

“It’s going to be hard to see the cup go to another town,” Shanahan told Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press. “Before I came here, I used to watch it every year, see the players take it home and enjoy it. But I won’t be able to watch that. It feels like it’s ours.”

1.) 2009 Game 7 vs. Pittsburgh

This one stings to this very day and fuels a massive hatred for the Penguins – so much hatred, that Wings fans employ the “Anybody but Pittsburgh” attitude toward the rest of these 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Penguins stole Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals in Detroit. It was like a combination of someone stealing your girlfriend and dog on the same day. Yes, it was THAT BAD.

Niklas Kronwall hit a crossbar with 2 minutes left in regulation. One-millionth of an inch lower, and it’s in the net, and maybe we’re saying “back-to-back Cups” today. And how about that miracle chance by Nicklas Lidstrom in the dying seconds? He was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins goalie who will never play a better game in his life.

Joe Louis Arena stood in funeral-like silence as the Penguins dethroned the beloved Wings, the defending Cup champions who relinquished the silver chalice on their legendary ice surface.

To make matters worse, Sidney Crosby took too much time celebrating and missed nearly half of the Wings in the handshake line.

“Nick was waiting and waiting, and Crosby didn’t come over to shake his hand,” Draper told the Associated Press. “That’s ridiculous, especially as their captain, and make sure you write that I said that.”

From that point forward, the hatred was fueled.

Brad Stuart was on the ice for both of the Penguins goals, scored by Maxime Talbot, of all people. The home team won every game in the series until Pittsburgh bucked the trend and shocked Detroit in Game 7.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it,” Dan Cleary told ESPN.com three months later. “I’ll always be like that ’til we get there again.”

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About Bruce Mason

Bruce Mason's work has appeared on blogs such as allpuck.com and obnoxiousfan.com. A Detroit native, he worked part-time at the Detroit News in 2006-07, freelanced for Crain's Detroit Business, and is now a five-time award winning writer at a daily paper in Idaho.