Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the 1987 Canada Cup Final. In what many still feel to be the best series of games ever played on a sheet of ice, Team Canada and the Soviet Union squared off at the Montreal Forum, in Game One of this classic series.
Canada were led by their collection of Edmonton Oilers in Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr and Wayne Gretzky and a young Pittsburgh Penguin by the name of Mario Lemieux. While the Soviets were stacked with talent up and down their lineup, including all world defenceman Viacheslav Fetisov but it was their outstanding KLM line of Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov that made them so dangerous. Simply put, it was hockey at it's very finest.
While the two sides closed out the round robin portion of the tournament playing to a 3-3 draw, this one would be different. This three game set was for, as they like to say, all the marbles and both teams came out with one intention in mind...drawing first blood and taking a 1-0 series lead.
Canada would strike first, as Mike Gartner used his trademark mark speed to gain the Soviet blueline, allowing him to corral a diving pass from Lemieux and promptly ripping a slap shot past starter Sergei Mylnikov, low on the stick side. Canada could not have asked for a better start. They had the early lead and all the momentum at they had played all of 1:49.
They kept coming but were unable to make it a two goal bulge, despite having an early chance on the man advantage. That would prove rather costly, as the Russians were starting to find their legs. After Fuhr made two big stops off Vyacheslav Bykov, Brent Sutter took a two minute holding penalty and the USSR power play wasted little time getting back on even terms.
Alexei Kasatonov's point shot deflected off Doug Gilmour and past a helpless Fuhr, to make it 1-1. That goal gave the visitors life, as they started to come in waves. A brilliant pad stop from the Team Canada netminder off a nifty deflection from Makarov and a quick glove save off Krutov, kept things knotted at one but the continued pressure, would see the Russians head back to the power play...and grab their first lead of the night.
Watching the Soviets move the puck at even strength was a treat in itself but when they were on the man advantage it was another thing altogether. After swinging the puck around at will in the Canadian zone, Fuhr stopped Fetisov's initial point shot but Ray Bourque inexcusably left Krutov all alone in front. Leaving #9 an easy tap in for their second PP marker of the period. Just like that, the Soviets had the lead and they were coming for more.
With Canada on a late first period power play, Messier decided to throw an ill advised saucer pass at the Russian blueline, which Krutov easily knocked down, before sending Makarov away on a breakaway. While Fuhr was arguably the best goalie one-on-one in the NHL, the talented Russian made it look easy, corkscrewing the Oiler netminder into the ice with a lovely deke, before depositing the puck into the wide open cage.
After such a promising start, it was all Russia, as they headed to the dressing room with a much deserved 3-1 lead. A shothanded marker, coupled with a pair of power play goals, left Canada searching for answers but it would only get worse in period two.
Valeri Kamensky's heavy but harmless looking slapper, somehow found its way through Fuhr and gave the Soviets a three goal cushion...just over two minutes into the middle stanza. To be honest, this one looked to be done but in typical Team Canada fashion, they refused to quit and were eventually rewarded for their never say die attitude.
A late power play goal made it 4-2, as Bourque's point shot deflected in off a Soviet stick and sent Canada into the intermission with a ray of hope. Fuhr would atone for his earlier blunder, making an absolutely outstanding and crucial glove stop off a streaking Larionov, to open the third. It was typical Fuhr. The big save at just the right moment and Canada wasted little time repaying their goaltender's efforts, as Gilmour made it 4-3, just over a minute later.
Both sides would trade chances throughout the period but the Russians were unable to get that insurance goal and Canada could not find that elusive equalizer, despite #11's best efforts to "re-direct" the tying goal, with his foot, into the Soviet net. Canada protested that Messier was falling to the ice and did not intentionally kick it in but Don Koharski made the right call, waving it off.
Despite their disappointment with the no-goal call, Canada would complete the comeback, courtesy of another Oilers sniper. Throughout his hockey career, Glenn Anderson always had that knack for scoring the big goal when his team needed it and this would be no different. Taking a feed from in full flight at the Soviet blueline, Anderson took to quick strides before snapping a zinger past Mylnikov, to make it 4-4, with just over five minutes to go. Mr. Clutch had done it again but the Soviets wasted little time trying to restore their lead.
Raymond Bourque continued his up and down night, as Bykov's pass bounced in off the Boston Bruins defender's skate and into the net, to make it 5-5. The goal was credited to Andrei Khomutov but make no mistake, it deflected off Bourque before sliding under Fuhr. The goal was eerily similar to Gretzky's only seconds earlier and seemed a fitting way to end regulation.
Both sides had early chances in overtime but it would be the Russians who would grab the winner, at the 5:33 mark. Another odd man rush and a world class finish from Alex Semak, putting an end to what was fast becoming, one of the most memorable comebacks in hockey history. In the end, it was a 6-5 victory for the Soviets but only the opening act of what was to follow.