The Miracle on Manchester

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“The Miracle on Machester” refers to an NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings in which the Kings came back from a 5-0 deficit to force overtime and then go on to win the game 6-5. The game, played on April 10, 1982 at the Kings’ home stadium, The Forum, was the third in a best-of-five playoff series, and is the largest playoff comeback victory in the history of the NHL.

Build-up to the Miracle on Manchester

The Oilers had finished top of the Smythe division while the Kings had finished in fourth place. During that era, the first seed and fourth seed in each division were paired off in the first playoff round while the second and third seeds met in the other first round playoff. The Oilers had a devastating offense, setting an NHL record for scoring, with 417 goals during the regular season.

On the other hand, the Kings were on a steep decline, finishing with the worst record among all postseason qualifiers and a goal haul of 314 goals, which was below league average. They let in 369 goals, which was only better than two other teams in the whole league, a damning indictment of their defense. The Oilers defense had allowed 295 goals, among the lowest in the league.

Game one and two of the series took place at the Oilers’ Northlands Coliseum, where the Oilers had a starling record. The Kings won a fiercely contested game one 10-8, representing the largest goal in a single NHL playoff game at that point. In game two, the Oilers evened the series with a 3-2 victory.

The Miracle Game

The series moved to the Forum for game three. The Oilers opened strongly, going into the first break with a 2-0 lead. Early in the second period, the Oilers added a third goal, thanks to some suspect goaltending from the Kings before adding a fourth late in the period. There was still time for another goal, as the Oilers made it 5-0 with barely seconds left in the period. At this point, Edmonton looked to be home and dry with the win, but the Kings had other ideas.

Slowly but surely, the Kings started to chip away at the Oilers’ lead from the beginning of the third quarter. Their first goal came with 2:46 on the clock thanks to a 30 feet shot from Jay Wells. Defenseman Kevin Lowe made it 5-2 three minutes later. The Kings’ rally did not alarm the Oilers at first due to their own superior offense. Oilers coach Glen Sather could even be seen chuckling shortly before the Kings registered a third goal through Charlie Simmer.

With less than five minutes to go, Hardy made it 5-4 sending the Kings’ fans into rapture. Two Oilers penalties had the Kings playing with a six versus four advantage. The Kings upped the pressure even further, sending wave after wave of attack at the Oilers goal but the Oilers’ defense held strong.

With ten seconds left in regular time, Jim Fox sent a pass to Mark Hardy, who was position in the center of Edmonton’s zone. Hardy hit a low shot towards goal. Oilers’ goaltender Grant Fuhr managed to save but the rebound, which Kings left wing Steve Bozek pounced on and unleashed an unstoppable shot past the helpless Fuhr. Against all odds, the Kings were now tied 5-5 with the Oilers.

The historic comeback sent the game into overtime. A defensive confusion in the Kings zone almost ended disastrously for the Kings but Mark Messier’s mishit shot sailed harmlessly wide with Kings goaltender Mario Lessard out of goal.

With less than three minutes left in overtime, Daryl Evans won possession and skated past Doug Smith and took a slap shot which whizzed past Fuhr and into the net to win the game for the Kings 6-5.

Aftermath of the Miracle on Machester

The Oilers won game four 3-2 to level the series once again. In game five in Edmonton, the Kings triumphed 7-4 to send them into the second round where the Vancouver Canucks eliminated them in five games. The Oilers made amends in the next season, advancing to the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals which they lost to the New York Islanders. Between 1984 and 1990, they won five out of seven Stanley Cups, to all but vanquish the hurt they suffered from the Miracle of Manchester.