Since 1967, the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, the team has had several opportunities to get back to the Cup final to play for hockey’s Holy Grail.
There was 1993, when the Los Angeles Kings took down the Leafs in seven games in the Western Conference final. The Leafs returned to the conference final a year later, only to lose to the Vancouver Canucks. Five years later, the Leafs were back at it, this time in the Eastern Conference final where they were knocked out by the Buffalo Sabres.
More recently, however, the club was knocked out of the conference final in 2002 by the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that they will take on tonight at the Air Canada Centre. The 2002 Leafs team was built for a Cup and ever since that time, have had no other team like it.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at back at some of the top moments of that series.
Mats Sundin keeps Leafs’ playoff hopes alive in Game 6
Going into Game 6 with the Hurricanes, the Leafs were fighting for their playoff lives.
Down 1-0 with less than 25 seconds to go, the Leafs had six guys on the ice with their netminder, Curtis Joseph, pulled. What ensued was a frantic several seconds until Leafs captain and legend Mats Sundin tied up the game.
Martin Gelinas sends Hurricanes to the Cup final
In that same memorable Game 6, it was Carolina Hurricanes forward Martin Gelinas who would turn out to be the real hero of the hockey game.
In overtime with just under 12 minutes to go in the first overtime, Gelinas took a pass from behind the net and beat Joseph to send the Hurricanes to their first Cup final.
Jeff O’Neill Scores OT winner in Game 3 to beat the Leafs
To the surprise of many hockey pundits and fans alike, the Leafs and Hurricanes were knotted up at one game apiece heading into Game 3 of the series.
They would be even more surprised when Hurricanes forward Jeff O’Neill scored the overtime winner to give his team a 2-1 series lead.
Curtis Joseph’s big glove save keeps his team in it in Game 6
Much of the Leafs’ success in the 2002 playoffs was due to the play of their netminder.
With his team down 3-2 in the series in a do or die Game 6, Joseph absolutely robbed O’Neill with a terrific glove save (fast forward to 4:20 of the video below).
Hurricanes defenceman Niclas Wallin ties up series in Game 2 with OT goal
With Carolina already down 1-0 in the series and having blown a late lead in the third period, the Hurricanes were in a difficult spot.
That all changed 13:42 into overtime when Hurricanes defenceman Niclas Wallin beat Curtis Joseph from the high slot to even the series heading back to Toronto.