Heading into Game 5 on Friday night, the Calgary Flames are trailing their first round playoff series 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche. Battling back from a 3-1 deficit certainly isn’t the easiest thing to do.
In the history of National Hockey League best-of-seven series (heading into this season), 243 series saw a team go down 3-1. In just 24 of them (9.9%), the team down 3-1 battled back to win the series. Rallying back from a 3-1 deficit hasn’t happened in the NHL since the second round of 2015.
It’s also never happened the previous eight times the Flames got themselves down 3-1 in a series.
1981 NHL semi-final series
The upstart Flames, recently relocated from scenic Atlanta, went on a heck of a run in the 1981 playoffs. They swept Chicago Black Hawks in the preliminary round, then narrowly avoided blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round to win in seven games.
But their luck ran out in the league’s semi-final series. They spotted the Minnesota North Stars a 3-1 series lead – splitting the first two games and then losing Games 3 and 4 – and pushed things to six games before losing Game 6 by a 5-3 score.
1983 Smythe Division final
After beating the Vancouver Canucks in four games (in the best-of-five first round), the Flames faced the Edmonton Oilers. They lost the first three game to the Oil before winning Game 4. But they dropped Game 5 by a 9-1 score to bow out of their series.
1984 Smythe Division final
After beating the Canucks in four games (again), the Flames faced the Oilers (again). The Flames split their first two games and then lost two more to spot Edmonton a 3-1 lead. They managed to win Games 5 and 6 in tight one-goal games (winning Game 6 in overtime) before losing Game 7 by a 7-4 score.
1986 Stanley Cup Final
1986 was a wild playoff year. The Flames swept the Jets in the best-of-five first round, then went the distance in seven-game series against the Oilers and St. Louis Blues. They met the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens in the Final and won Game 1 before losing the next four games to bow out of the playoffs – three of their four losses were by a single goal.
1987 Smythe Division semi-final
The 1986-87 Flames finished in second place in the Smythe, seven points up on the third place Jets in the regular season. But they dropped the first two games of their first round series to those Jets, then traded wins and losses until they were eliminated in Game 6. They managed to avoid losing in five games, but they were fairly thoroughly beaten (6-1) in Game 6.
1990 Smythe Division semi-final
Stop me if this sounds familiar. The Flames finished tops in the Campbell Conference and faced the eighth place Los Angeles Kings in the first round. They traded wins in Calgary, lost Game 3 in Los Angeles and then were thumped 12-4 in Game 4. They staved off elimination in Game 5, but lost in Game 6 in double OT to be eliminated.
1991 Smythe Division semi-final
Once again, the Flames couldn’t get out of the starting blocks in the first round. They got down 3-1 via a pair of losses in Edmonton in Games 3 and 4, but they managed to stave off elimination twice – including a dramatic overtime win in Game 6 that featured Theoren Fleury’s iconic sliding celebration – but they dropped Game 7 in an equally dramatic overtime to lose the series.
2015 Western Conference semi-final
After beating the Canucks in six games – their first playoff round win since 2004 – the Flames seemed to run out of gas against the Anaheim Ducks. They dropped Games 1 and 2 in Anaheim before eking out a split in Games 3 and 4 in Calgary (with their only win coming in overtime). They dropped Game 5 in overtime to be eliminated.