While the wounds are fresh just two weeks after the Game 7 overtime loss at TD Garden, the pain of the Maple Leafs surrendering three goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation in Boston pales in comparison to the frustration and anger felt in the aftermath of the game that occurred 20 years ago today.
May 27th 1993 was the date of the infamous Gretzky High Stick game; Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Western Conference Final between the "Great One"’s Los Angeles Kings and a surprisingly resilient veteran Toronto club led by Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark.
The Leafs appeared to be a team of destiny in 1993, defeating Detroit in overtime of Game 7 and beating the St. Louis Blues in seven games. The clubs split the first four games and Toronto took a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 on an overtime goal by Glenn Anderson, but trailed 4-1 early in the third period of Game Six at the LA Forum before team captain Clark led a late three goal rally and tied the game at 4-4 in the final two minutes of regulation with the goaltender pulled(does this sound familiar??)
The Leafs had all the momentum heading towards overtime just as the Bruins did following Patrice Bergeron’s tying goal with 51 seconds left in regulation, but that changed when an overzealous Glenn Anderson rammed young Kings blueliner Rob Blake needlessly into the boards and was penalized by referee Kerry Fraser.
During the Kings overtime power play, Gretzky’s errant stick clipped Gilmour’s chin and drew blood, which should have merited at minimum a double minor for high sticking, but neither Fraser or the two linesmen decided to make the call.
“The helplessness of not knowing for sure what had just occurred as (Doug) Gilmour dabbed blood from his chin and prevented it from staining the Fabulous Forum ice lingers in my memory.” Fraser said in remembering the most infamous moment of his career. “While I don't carry it with me like "luggage," the baggage that many a Leafs fan continually pack, makes it impossible for the memory to ever go away.”
The Game 7 loss to Boston was undeniably history making and will likely have an effect on what Leafs GM Dave Nonis does in the off-season, but it was a first round loss to a team that was a prohibitive favorite going into the series. That is not diminishing the fact that Toronto should have been able to hold on to such a large lead so late in the contest, but on the grand scale of things, it does not compare to the losses in two elimination games that would have sent the Leafs to their first Stanley Cup Final in 26 years.
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