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On This Date in Sports April 23, 1950: Sudden Cup

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In what might be the most thrilling Stanley Cup Finals ever, the Detroit Red Wings beat the New York Rangers in seven games. Three of the final four games in the series went to overtime, including Game 7. It is the only Game 7 Stanley Cup Final decided in sudden death, as Pete Babando scores the Stanley Cup-winning goal at 8:31 of double overtime to give the Red Wings a 4-3 win.

It had been a long decade for the New York Rangers, as they made the playoffs just once in seven seasons after 1942. This included the dreadful 1943/44 season in which New York posted one of the worst seasons in NHL history at 6-39-5. Coached by Lynn Patrick, the Rangers finished in fourth place in the 1949/50 season, with a record of 28-31-11 as goalie Chuck Raymer won the Hart Trophy. On the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Rangers shocked the Montreal Canadiens in five games. 

The Detroit Red Wings were a team on the rise in 1950, thanks to budding star Gordie Howe. Coached by Tommy Ivan, the Red Wings finished with the best record in the NHL for the second year in a row at 37-19-14. It was Detroit’s third straight year in the Stanley Cup Finals as lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1948 and 1949. The Red Wings had to face the Maple Leafs in the semifinals in 1950 and ended Toronto’s three-year reign in seven games. The Red Wings won the last two games, 4-0 and 1-0. With Game 7 being decided in overtime on a goal by Leo Reise. 

For the Stanley Cup Finals, the New York Rangers were unable to use Madison Square Garden due to a contract with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus. Game 2 and 3 of the series would be held on neutral ice at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, while the rest of the series was held at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium. 

In Game 1, the Red Wings won 4-1, scoring four unanswered goals after the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the first period. With Edgar Laprade scoring twice, the Rangers won 3-1 in Game 2 in Toronto. The Wings would take the second game in Toronto 4-0 on a shutout by Harry Lumley. Back in Detroit for Game 4, the Rangers won 4-3 in overtime on a goal by Don Raleigh to square the series at two games apiece. The Rangers also won Game 5 in overtime 2-1 with Raleigh again, scoring the game-winner after Ted Lindsay’s late third-period goal tied the game for Detroit. Down 3-2 in the series, the Red Wings forced a seventh game with a 5-4 win in Game 6 as Lindsay and Sid Abel each scored two goals.

Game 7 would decide the Stanly Cup Champions; it was the first time the Stanley Cup Finals went to a seventh game since 1945 when the Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings. Things looked bad early for Detroit, as New York had a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Allan Stanley and Tony Leswick. In the second period, the Red Wings tied the game on goals by Pete Babando and Sid Abel, 21 seconds apart. The Rangers would retake the lead on a goal by Buddy O’Connor, while Jimmy McFadden answered to deadlock the score 3-3. Neither team would score in the third period as the game went into sudden death. The first 20-minute overtime would come and go without a goal. In the second overtime, it would be Pete Babando with his second goal of the game, ending the drama and winning the game and the Stanley Cup 4-3 for the Red Wings. 

It was the first time a Stanley Cup was decided on a sudden-death goal. There have been other Stanley Cup Finals won on an overtime goal, but this was the one that was determined by sudden death in a seventh game. 

The Red Wings would go to win the Stanley Cup four times in six seasons, while the Rangers struggles resumed after 1950 as they did not win another playoff series for 21 years, as they made only sporadic playoff appearances over the next two decades. The Rangers would not win the Stanley Cup until 1994.