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On This Date in Sports April 18, 1942: The Comeback

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Toronto Maple Leafs complete an improbable comeback from down 3-0 to win the Stanley Cup against the Detroit Red Wings. Toronto wins Game 7 at Maple Leaf Gardens 3-1. It is the first time a Stanley Cup Final went seven games and the first time a team rallied from a 3-0 deficit. The Red Wings held a 1-0 lead at the start of the third period, but Toronto took the lead on goals by Sweeny Schriner and Pete Langelle two minutes apart.

The NHL, along with the rest of the sports world, was at an unknown crossroad after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. As the 1941/42 season came to an end, the NHL shrunk to seven teams as the Brooklyn Americans went on a permanent hiatus following the season. The playoffs in the NHL  would become one of the wildest in the history of the Stanley Cup, as the Detroit Red Wings, after posting a losing record, appeared on the verge of a historic run as they held a 3-0 series lead.

The Detroit Red Wings, coached by Jack Adams, posted a record of 19-25-4, finishing fifth among seven teams. Six teams made the playoffs, and the Red Wings made it to the semifinals by beating the Montreal Canadiens in a three-game series, winning the finale 6-1. The Game 3 win would launch Detroit on a run as they swept the defending champion Boston Bruins to reach the Stanley Cup FInals for the second straight season. 

The New York Rangers had been the best team in the NHL, expecting to win their second Stanley Cup in three years. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs, led by Hap Day, proved a tough test in the semifinals. Toronto finished second in the NHL with a record of 27-18-3. In the best-of-seven series against New York, the Maple Leafs won the series in six games. In Game 6, at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto won 3-2 as Nick Metz scored the game-winner with five seconds remaining in regulation. 

The Detroit Red Wings carried the momentum from the sweep of the Bruins and won the series opener in Toronto 3-2. Don Grosso scored the game-winning goal late in the second period as Johnny Mowers let the lead stand with a flawless third period in goal for Detroit. Grosso scored twice in Game 2, as the Red Wings won 4-2 and headed home with a 2-0 series lead. The Red Wings fell behind 2-0 in Game 3 at the Olympia, but two goals 20 seconds apart, the Red Wings rallied to tie the game at the end of the first period. The Red Wings would win the game 5-2 and looked moments away from victory leading the series 3-0. 

The Maple Leafs' comeback started in Game 4, as they battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the second period and a 3-2 deficit in the third period to win 4-3 and keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. Syl Apps tied the game, while Nick Metz gave Toronto the lead with just over seven minutes left. Game 5 in Toronto was all Maple Leafs as they buried Detroit 9-3. At Olympia Stadium in Game 6, Turk Broda was magical in goal, stopping every shot he faced, as the Maple Leafs evened the series with a 3-0 win.

The first Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals at the Maple Leaf Gardens had the Red Wings hoping to find the magic they had in the series' first three games for their third Stanley Cup. The Maple Leafs looked to complete the comeback for their fourth Stanley Cup Championship. Detroit scored first on a goal by Syd Howe early in the second period and held a 1-0 lead as the third period began. Sweeney Schriner tied the game at 7:47 of the third period. Two minutes later, the Maple Leafs took the lead on a goal by Pete Langelle. Schriner added a third goal with under four minutes left as the Maple Leafs won the game 3-1.