Back in March, we took a look back at five forgotten games from NHL history that, in hindsight, changed the results of a draft lottery. It was a reminder of just how close we came to Patrick Kane as an Oiler, or Vincent Lecavalier as a Canuck. It was meant to be a fun concept, and most fans seemed to enjoy it, with the exception of Capitals fans who saw Alexander Ovechkin photoshopped into a Blue Jackets uniform and immediately had coronaries.
This year, the NHL changed the lottery rules, expanding the process to include three draws instead of just one. And that’s good news for us, because it leaves us with plenty of opportunity to play the “one forgotten game” card with this year’s results. Now that we know what the winning spots in the standings were – that would be 30th, 25th and 27th – we can come up with all sorts of scenarios that would have changed the identity of the teams holding them.
So today, that’s what we’ll do. Granted, given how close the standings were around the key spots, we could pick virtually any game from the season for some of these teams. But that’s no fun. We want something that’s at least vaguely memorable, since it makes it more entertaining to point back and say “We didn’t realize it at the time, but that game changed everything.”
Usually, that means a late-season game that’s still somewhat fresh. But not always, as we’ll see with our first pick
October 29, 2015 – Canadiens at Oilers
Edmonton and Toronto finished just one point apart for what turned out to be the winning 30th spot, so there are plenty of options here. For example, this third period comeback by Ottawa in Dion Phaneuf’s return to Toronto narrowly kept the Maple Leafs from finishing 29th and missing out on Auston Matthews. Thanks, Senators!
But my favorite option was suggested by reader kungfu_canuck. It’s this early season contest between the Habs and Oilers, from back when the Canadiens were the toast of the league and the Oilers were off to a slow start that they were sure was only temporary. Montreal roared out to a 3-0 first period lead. But a second period goal by the recently recalled Leon Draisaitl sparked a comeback, and the Oilers pushed back to tie the game in the third. With overtime looming, Draisaitl struck again with just a minute left, handing the Oilers a 4-3 win that felt like a possible season turning point.
In the end, those two points kept Edmonton from the lottery-winning 30th spot and handed it to the Toronto instead. As an added bonus, the Oilers weren’t the only team to suffer a major loss that night without knowing it; during pregame warmup, Carey Price stepped on a puck and hurt his leg. He’d later re-aggravate the injury, one that cost him most of the season.
One game, one comeback, and potentially franchise-altering impacts on three different teams. And none of us had any idea at the time.