That was done by the Calgary Flames in 1989, and 32 years later, the Lightning will try to add their name to the record books when they play the Canadiens in Game 4 at Bell Centre on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN TVAS).
“I’m amazed no one else has done it,” Lanny McDonald, who was the Flames captain in 1989, said during a phone interview Sunday. “It’s a special accomplishment and something we still take pride in.
“When you consider the illustrious history of the Canadiens, the banners hanging from the rafters, the legacies of players such as Jean Beliveau and [Maurice] ‘Rocket’ Richard and Doug Harvey and so many others, it was just such a memorable experience. I mean, you just want to win the Cup and don’t care where, but once we did it, it really was a special environment.
“Now Tampa has the chance to do it, too. I’d like to see Montreal keep them from doing it, not because of our record, but because I want the series to keep going so I can watch more hockey.”
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If the Canadiens want to extend the Stanley Cup Final, they will have to play a lot better than they have so far in the series.
Montreal has yet to hold a lead and has been outscored by Tampa Bay 14-5, the worst margin since 1997, when the Detroit Red Wings also outscored the Philadelphia Flyers 14-5 through the first three games. Detroit would go on to sweep that series.
Among the 27 teams in NHL history to fall behind 3-0 in the Cup Final, only one has come back to win the series. That was the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Red Wings in 1942.
Despite those odds, defenseman Jeff Petry said the Canadiens will do everything in their power to avoid watching NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hand Lightning captain Steven Stamkos the Cup on Monday.
“We don’t want to see the Lightning with the Stanley Cup at all,” Petry said. “Like [coach Dominique Ducharme] said, you’re not going to win four games by winning one tomorrow. Our goal is to win tomorrow’s game and deal with flying out and dealing with a game in Tampa when that time comes.”
McDonald wouldn’t be surprised if that happens.
“There’s a lot of pride on that Canadiens team, as you can see by the way they played to get to the final,” he said. “They will definitely not throw in the towel.
“They’re the Montreal Canadiens.”
Before moving to the Bell Centre on March 16, 1996, the Canadiens played for 70 seasons at the historic Montreal Forum. In that span, the Canadiens advanced to the Cup Final 29 times, winning 22, with the last coming in 1993.
That’s why Mark Hunter, who is now the general manager of London of the Ontario Hockey League, has fond memories of skating around the Forum with the Cup alongside his Flames teammates on that historical night of May 25, 1989. Calgary had just defeated Montreal 4-2 in Game 6, its third straight win in the series, and for Hunter, who began his NHL career with the Canadiens from 1981-85, it was the perfect stage.
“When you think about how excited all of us were to win it, it was a big night because to celebrate right in the Montreal Forum, there’s lots of ghosts there and lots of history there,” he said. “So it was special.
“There’s so much history there that people really don’t know until you’re around it on a regular basis of all the famous players, how well they look after the alumni, and how the people there are winners. You look at a guy like Serge Savard, he’s still around the rink. You’ve got Bob Gainey still around there right now. Back then you had Henri Richard, Bob Gainey, Yvan Cournoyer, so many past winners who were around the rink, so it made it special to be able to win it there.”
One of the lasting impressions of that celebration was of McDonald hoisting the Cup, his first, after playing in what would be the final game of his 16-season Hall-of-Fame career.
In Hunter’s mind, the other player who stood out was forward Doug Gilmour, who scored a pair goals in the third period, including the eventual winner at 11:02.
“Heading into Game 6, we were aware that no visiting team had ever won the Cup in Montreal against the Canadiens because everyone was talking about it,” Gilmour said. “We probably wouldn’t have known until the media brought it up.
“We just wanted to win the Cup. Obviously, it would have been nice to win the Cup at home, but at the same time, it was a pretty cool accomplishment to do it there.”
For Cliff Fletcher, the sentimental value attached to that night still runs deep. A Montreal native, he got his start with the Canadiens in 1956, performing various jobs in scouting and player development.
Imagine the emotions running through him 33 years later when, as the GM of the Flames, he watched his team win the Cup against the franchise he’d once worked for in the building he’d once called his hockey home.
“For myself, it obviously meant a lot,” Fletcher said. “I spent my first 10 years in the hockey business working for the Canadiens. They’re the ones that gave me my opportunity to start in the business.”
Fletcher, now a senior adviser to the Maple Leafs, said the subject of being the only team to win the Cup against the Canadiens in Montreal often comes up when members of the 1989 Flames get together.
He understands the Lightning could become the second team to accomplish the feat Monday, but feels the Canadiens are going to be a very difficult out.
“You don’t want to be embarrassed on your home ice,” Fletcher said. “So I would expect that they will play their best game.”