Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s summer series where we look at the biggest game in team history. Each day we will be back with a new team to review. Looking at things like the lead-up, what happened, followed, and why it makes it the biggest game. The biggest game does not automatically mean a win, either. Sometimes, it can be a loss that set the franchise back massively. Sit back and enjoy as we break down all 31 Team’s most important game. The full series is found here.
While the Buffalo Sabres have never won a Stanley Cup, they’ve reached the Stanley Cup final twice (1975, 1999) and have collected a few very memorable playoff victories along the way. In the 1991-92 season, the Sabres lost a bitter, seven-game opening-round series against the Boston Bruins. They were pitted against the Bruins again the following season. Buffalo came in the severe underdog, finishing with only 86 points compared to Boston’s 109. On April 24, 1993, Buffalo’s Brad May scored the overtime winner to sweep the powerhouse team from Beantown and send the Sabres to the second round. Rick Jeanneret’s iconic “May Day!” call has immortalized this moment in Sabres history, and it contributes to the awesomeness of that moment that makes it the biggest game in Sabres’ history.
Buffalo Sabres Biggest Game
The First Three Games
In Game Two, however, they blanked the Bruins 4-0. Led by the play of stars such as Dale Hawerchuk, Pat LaFontaine, Alexander Mogilny, Grant Fuhr, Buffalo was on the verge of history. However, those names wouldn’t be the takeaway from their Game Four victory.
First Period Blowout
Buffalo may have been nervous heading into an opportunity to complete the upset at home, and it certainly showed early on. The star-powered Bruins team took advantage early as Cam Neely, Joe Juneau (both power-play goals), Peter Douris, and Stephen Leach scored en route to compiling a 4-2 lead over the Sabres by the end of the first. Fuhr, who started the game, was replaced by Dominik Hasek to start the second period due to a knee strain. Dave Poulin also scored a shorthanded goal shortly into the second to make it 5-2.
The Sabres held on in the first thanks to goals by Mogilny and Hawerchuk, but it seemed like Boston was destined to extend the series and send it back to Massachusetts for Game Five.
Sabres’ Heroic Comeback
Shortly after the Poulin goal to make it 5-2, Donald Audette scored for the Sabres to get them within two goals. However, for the 15+ minutes remaining the second period, the score remained at 5-3. Boston was dominating the game in terms of shots and goals, and their goalie, Andy Moog, wasn’t giving in to the Sabres’ attempts.
And halfway through the third period, nothing had really changed. At 10:43 of the third, however, May sees himself on the scoresheet with a primary assist on Mogilny’s goal to get the Sabres within one. They feed off that momentum, and less than a minute after that, Khmylev gets his first of the game to tie it at five goals apiece.
So tied it would stay as the game heads to overtime, giving Buffalo a chance to deliver the knockout punch to a now reeling Bruins squad.
The Call Heard ‘Round the World
May describes it this way (via the Buffalo News): “I was absolutely almost sleepwalking in that moment… it was a reactive thing. Not thinking. Reacting and doing. That’s what they call ‘The Zone.’ If I really knew what the zone was, I’m sure I would have scored more goals and been a better player.”
4:48 into the first overtime: Keith Carney “getting it up to LaFontaine. He gets tripped up. Gets it to May. In over the line. Here’s May going in on goal. He shoots. He scores!”
And hence May Day was born. It was his first goal in over two months, one that was scored by decking around all-time great Ray Bourque.
It’s a goal that all of Buffalo and May will remember for a lifetime.
Unfortunately, Buffalo’s winning luck ran out immediately. They were returned the sweeping favour by Montreal, and May’s goal signified their last win of the season. However, the goal proved that Buffalo was resilient and relevant, and six short years later, Buffalo was in the Cup Final against the Dallas Stars.
A game like this is so important to a franchise because it signifies something so remarkable: a true David and Goliath story. It’s a lovely and exhilarating thing to watch unfold. For everybody involved, it’s nostalgic. It’s a moment of greatness and victory for a team that hasn’t had many, and that’s why it’s the Buffalo Sabres’ biggest game in franchise history.