In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Down 5-0 at the start of the third period, the Los Angeles Kings stage a comeback for the ages to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in overtime in Game 3 of their first-round series at the Forum in Inglewood. The series was tied, with the two teams splitting the first two games in Edmonton. The game known as the Miracle on Manchester would help the Kings complete a stunning upset of the Oilers in five games.
The Smythe Division showdown between the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings looked like a significant mismatch. The Stanley Cup Playoff format had the top four teams in each division making the postseason, with each division having its only playoff until the winners of each division tournament played in the conference finals. The Oilers, coached by Glenn Sather, were a dynasty beginning to blossom as they finished with the best record in the Campbell Conference, 48-17-15, while the Kings, coached by Don Perry, were the worst team in the playoffs at 24-41-15. The Kings' only reason for being in the postseason came because the Colorado Rockies had the worst record in the NHL in their final season before moving to New Jersey.
The series opened at the Northlands Coliseum, with the Oilers coming off a record-breaking season in which they scored 417 goals, led by Wayne Gretzky, who set a new record for points (212) and goals (92) in a season. The records would continue to fall in Game 1, as the Kings, who won just five road games in the regular season, won 10-8 in the highest-scoring playoff game in NHL history as Marcel Dionne and Daryl Evans each scored twice. The Kings were on the verge of another upset win in Game 2 before Jari Kurri tied the game 2-2 with just under five minutes left. The Oilers would win the game 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Wayne Gretzky.
Fans came to the Forum in Inglewood on Manchester Boulevard, hoping the Kings could continue to give the Oilers an unexpected fight. The Oilers came out fast and dominated Game 3, taking a 5-0 lead at the end of two periods. The Kings finally got on the scoreboard with a goal by Jay Wells at 2:46 of the third period. Three minutes later, they added a power-play goal from Doug Smith to cut the deficit to 5-2. The score remained 5-2 in favor of the Oilers until Charlie Simmer scored with 5:22 left; a minute later, the Kings got within one goal when Mark Hardy beat Grant Fuhr. The Kings had turned the Forum on its ear and were looking to tie the game while on the power play in the final seconds when Steve Bozek used a backhander to tie the game with five seconds left. The Kings were tired but ecstatic, while the Oilers were in stunned disbelief. In overtime, the Oilers had a chance to win the game when Goalie Mario Lessard mishandled the puck leaving Mark Messier a wide-open net, which he missed. At 2:35 of sudden death, Daryl Evans scored the game-winner giving the Kings a stunning 6-5 win, as he was mobbed by his teammates, who piled on the ice with the crowd screaming deliriously. The comeback from down 5-0 is the biggest in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Oilers would recover with a 3-2 win in Game 4 to send the series back to Edmonton for the decisive fifth game. The Kings would jump out to a big lead thanks to two first-period goals from Charlie Simmer. With three goals in the first and three goals in the second period, the Kings eventually built a 7-2 lead as Dan Bonar scored twice. The Oilers attempted their own five-goal comeback, but it was not meant to be as Mario Lessard made 40 saves as the Kings won the finale 7-4 to advance to the Smythe Division Finals.
The Kings' magic would not reappear in the Division Finals as they were beaten by the Vancouver Canucks four games to one. The Oilers' stunning first-round loss would be a mere bump in the road to their greatness. They would reach the Stanley Cup Finals a year later, losing to the New York Islanders. In 1984 the Oilers would win the first of five Stanley Cups in seven years, beginning one of hockey’s all-time greatest dynasties.