Those Maple Leafs lost the first three games of that series to the Red Wings and came back to win the Cup.
So far, only those Maple Leafs pulled off such a feat in the Finals.
If the Caps are to win this series, they will have to be the duplicate that accomplishment.
Last night, they lost Game 3, when Sergei Fedorov held off Caps defenseman Calle Johansson and got off a shot with 4: 51 remaining in the game that left goalie Olie Kolzig shaking his head.
The goal gave the Red Wings its second 2-1 victory of the series and its third one-goal win in as many games.
The Caps are now in danger of becoming the fourth straight team to be swept in the Stanley Cup Finals -- a series of events that New Jersey started in 1995 by sweeping these same Red Wings.
Fedorov's goal, his first of the series, momentarily silenced the sold-out crowd at MCI Center, which had been going crazy moments before.
The Caps had just rallied for a 1-1 tie with 9: 25 to play, when Brian Bellows made his biggest play of the season. The left wing, who joined the Caps at the trading deadline, skated in on Detroit goalie Chris Osgood's right flank and slapped the puck behind him.
The play was made possible by Adam Oates, who carried the puck into the Detroit crease from the corner and caused a flurry of activity. When the puck slithered out, Bellows was on deck to knock it into the net and forge a 1-1 tie.
The play was the culmination of 35 minutes of hard work by the Capitals, who had spent the second period trying to make up for a Red Wings goal in the first 35 seconds of the game.
"It was a big start for us, 35 seconds in, getting the first goal on the road like this," said Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman, who will tie Toe Blake for most Stanley Cup titles if the Red Wings finish off the Caps. "The whole team got the lift, but now Game 4, all these games are out the window."
It was only two days ago that the Capitals became the first team in 42 years to lose a Finals game after leading by two goals in the third period.
Last night, in the first period, they tied for fewest shots in a period of a Stanley Cup Finals when they had only one.
The game was barely 20 seconds old when Washington's Mark Tinordi took the lonely shot. And it was just 35 seconds old when the Red Wings scored.
It was a goal that came in a flash. Rookie Tomas Holmstrom lifted the loose puck over Kolzig, who had just made a big play to stop Steve Yzerman's drive to the net. The Caps' goalie seemed to have wrapped up the Red Wings' captain and the puck. But as Yzerman slid away, the puck popped out into Holmstrom's path.
The Caps' single shot looked lonely on the scoreboard at MCI Center, and by the end of the second period, so did Detroit's lone goal.
Outshot 13-1 in the first -- and 34-18 overall -- the Caps looked as if they could have used the practice that was canceled Friday. But in the second, they began building momentum.
Detroit clearly outplayed them over the first 20 minutes. Washington was not only a step slow, but the Caps' general reactions were just a tick off, giving the Red Wings more opportunities to pick up loose pucks and again forcing Kolzig into the role of savior.
But as bad as the Capitals played, the Red Wings had just that one goal.
Defenseman Joe Reekie got the sold-out crowd at MCI Center fired up, when his shot from the point nearly reached the net early in the period. But Detroit goalie Chris Osgood captured it with his glove just before it rolled past the goal line.
Osgood, who has been criticized throughout the playoffs, has been tough to solve for the Capitals. He is 6-0-0 against them in his career.
The Caps outshot Detroit, 12-11, in the second period and carried its improved rush into the third. But still no goal.
Washington vs. Detroit
(Detroit leads 3-0)
Date . .. Res./Site .. .. ..Time .. ..TV
Gm 1 .. ..Det., 2-1
Gm 2 .. ..Det., 5-4**
Yest. .. .Det., 2-1
Tue. .. ..at Wash. .. .. .. .. 8 .. ESPN
Thu. .. ..at Det. .. .. .. .. .8* ...Fox
Sat. .. ..at Wash. .. .. .. ...8*.. ESPN
6/23 .. ..at Det. .. .. .. .. .8* ...Fox
*-If necessary; **-overtime
Pub Date: 6/14/98