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On This Date in Sports June 3, 1993: The Illegal Stick

After a 4-1 loss in Game 1, the Montreal Canadiens face a second straight home loss in the Stanley Cup Finals as they are behind 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings late in Game 2. Facing desperation, coach Jacques Demers challenges the curve on Marty McSorley’s stick and gets a power play, which leads to a goal by Eric Desjardins, who would also score in overtime to win the game 3-2.

 In his fifth season with the Los Angeles Kings, Wayne Gretzky finally got his team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Coached by Barry Melrose, the Kings had an ordinary regular season at 39-35-10, finishing third in the Smythe Division. In the playoffs, they beat the Calgary Flames in six games and the Vancouver Canucks in six games to reach Campbell Conference Finals. In the Conference Finals, Wayne Gretzky scored an overtime goal in Game 6 and a hat trick to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The NHL celebrated the 100th birthday of the Stanley Cup; it only seemed natural that the Montreal Canadiens would be in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canadiens have already won the Stanley Cup a record 23 times. Coached by Jacques Demers, the Canadiens finished third in the Adams Division with a record of 48-30-6. After losing the first two games, the Canadiens rallied to beat the Quebec Nordiques in six games, winning two in overtime. Montreal would then sweep the Buffalo Sabres, winning three games in overtime. In the Wales Conference Finals, the Canadiens needed five games to beat the New York Islanders in five games, again winning two games in overtime.

In the opener of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Los Angeles Kings came out strong, winning 4-1 at the Montreal Forum as Luc Robitaille led the way with two goals, along with Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky. The Kings were also in control of Game 2, leading 2-1 late in the second period. Eric Desjardins had given Montreal a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Los Angeles, with goals from Dave Taylor and Pat Conacher, was on the verge of taking a 2-1 lead as Kelly Hrudey was frustrating the Habs in the net. Canadiens coach Jacques Demers reportedly knew that Marty McSorley had an illegal curve on his stick. With time running out, Demers challenged McSorley’s stick in a risky move in that the Canadiens would get a penalty if the stick was legal. The stick turned out to have too much curve putting the Kings enforcer in the penalty box. The move paid off as Desjardins tied the game with just over a minute left on the power play. In overtime, the Canadiens won their eighth sudden-death game of the playoffs, as Eric Desjardins completed the hat trick just 51 seconds into overtime. 

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At the Great Western Forum, the Canadiens continued their overtime magic, winning Game 3 by a score on a quick goal by John LeClair. LeClair was also the overtime hero in Game 4 as the Canadiens won 3-2 as Patrick Roy made 40 saves to give Montreal a 3-1 series lead. Back home in Game 5, the Canadiens won their record 24th Stanley Cup Championship with a 4-1 with as Paul DiPietro scored twice, along with Kirk Muller and Stephen Lebeau.

In winning their 24th Staley Cup, the Montreal Canadiens won a record ten playoff games in overtime, as Goalie Patrick Roy won the Conn Smythe as the MVP in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in his career. The Canadiens have not won the Stanley Cup since, nor has a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup as every winner since has been based in the United States.