May 16, 1996: Steve Yzerman scored one of the most memorable goals in NHL history, blasting a slapshot past Jon Casey to the top left corner in double overtime of game 7 versus the St. Louis Blues.
But that wasn’t supposed to be the way this story ends for St. Louis Blues fans…
Leading up to the trade deadline, St. Louis Blues General Manager and Head Coach Mike Keenan made a series of trades including acquiring none other than Wayne Gretzky in an effort to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup back to St. Louis for the first time in franchise history.
The idea of Wayne Gretzky, the game’s greatest playmaker, passing to Brett Hull, arguably the game’s greatest shooter and goal scorer, was every hockey fan’s fantasy!
Not to mention, future NHL Hall of Famers Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr, and Dale Hawerchuck (who was later traded for Craig MacTavish) supplemented the Blues roster designed for a deep playoff run.
As far as the Blues and their fanbase were concerned, this was THEIR YEAR!
But apparently, no one told the Detroit Red Wings and their fearless leader, Steve Yzerman.
The 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings posted the second-highest point total by an NHL team ever — falling 1 point shy of tying the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens — en route to their second of back-to-back Presidents’ trophies.
Regular-season accomplishments are great, but it’s what you do in the playoffs that matter.
Both the Blues and Red Wings needed 6 games to win their 1st round matchups in the 1996 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Blues beating the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings overcoming the Jets.
The Red Wings v. Blues series initially looked like it would be a short affair after the Red Wings won the first two games.
But the Blues battled back to even the series with a gutsy overtime win in game 3 and a 1-0 victory in game 4 to even the series and make it a best of 3.
The series got really interesting when Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, and Yuri Khmylev scored for the Blues in a 3-2 win in game 5, forcing the Red Wings to win out to stay alive.
But the Red Wings tied the series in game 6, winning 4-2 thanks to goals from Larionov, Draper, Dino Ciccarelli (GWG), and Niklas Lidstrom.
Despite all of the offensive firepower on the ice, game 7 was a legendary goalie duel between the Blues’ Jon Casey and Red Wings’ Chris Osgood, denying all shots in regulation and the 1st overtime period.
After 80 minutes of play, the Blues and Red Wings were tied at 0-0, but it only took 75 seconds into the 2nd overtime for that to change.
After what looked like a harmless neutral zone turnover by Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman sped towards the Blues’ end and as soon as he crossed the offensive blueline unleashed a howitzer labeled for the top left corner behind goaltender Jon Casey.
Not only was Yzerman’s snipe one of the most epic in NHL history but Gary Thorne’s play call is also one of the most memorable!
The Red Wings went on to lose the Western Conference Finals to the 1996 Stanley Cup Champions, Colorado Avalanche. Meanwhile, the game 7 double-overtime loss signified the end of Gretzky’s time as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
Today in Hockey History: Mike Modano Becomes the Highest-Scoring US-Born Player in Stanley Cup Playoff History