An NHL game went on forever Thursday, but Detroit Red Wings hold record almost 90 years later

Detroit Free Press

When the final buzzer sounded on Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final in the early hours of Friday morning, the event went into the books as the sixth-longest game in NHL history.

The Detroit Red Wings still hold the record, nearly 90 years after setting it.

The NHL report sheet shows the game between the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes began at 8:10 p.m. and ended at 1:54 a.m., when Matthew Tkachuk scored with 13 seconds to play in the fourth overtime to give his Panthers a 3-2 victory. After 139 minutes and 47 seconds of playing time, the Panthers claimed a 1-0 series lead.

The Wings hold the record with 176 minutes and 30 seconds.

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It was Game 1 of the semifinal between the Wings and the Montreal Maroons, on March 24, 1936. (Back then there were eight teams in the NHL, divided into the American division and Canadian division.) The game began at 8:30 p.m. at the Forum in Montreal, and ended at 2:25 a.m. Mud Bruneteau, a rookie who had been called up two weeks earlier, scored at 16:30 of the sixth overtime, beating Maroon goaltender Lorne Chabot to win the game, 1-0. Detroit goaltender Normie Smith earned the shutout with more than 90 saves.

“I can’t remember everything that happened 50 years ago,” Smith said in a 1986 interview in the Detroit Free Press. “But I do remember I had a pretty good club in front of me. We were real good.”

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Smith, who was only 5 feet 7, 165 pounds, played a huge part in the lore created by the ’35-36 team. He led the NHL that season in minutes played (3,030) and victories (24), and played all of the Wings’ seven games in the two rounds of the best-of-five playoffs (the Wings won their second straight regular-season title, drawing a bye in the first round).

Shots on goal weren’t recorded then, but Smith is generally considered to have made either 91 or 92 saves.

“When I went into the game, I had some butterflies,” Smith said. “Of course, I had no idea how long the game would eventually last. But as it got longer and longer into the game, I seemed to settle down.”

Smith began to feel the strain after the first couple overtime periods. “Near the end, the pads and equipment were getting heavy from being soaked with sweat and water,” he said. “When I saw the red light go on to end the game, I thought, ‘School’s out!’ I was very happy it finally ended.

“I really found out how tired I was afterwards, when we went to the Lumberjacks Club in Montreal and I had one bottle of ale. That set me right back on my heels.”

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Pete Kelly, a right wing on the team, described his memories of Bruneteau’s goal.

“I remember in those days, they didn’t make ice in between periods like they do now with the Zamboni,” Kelly said. “They only swept the ice, so it was quite rough with a lot of skate marks. The longer the game went, the more difficult the puck was to control.

“Hec (Wally Kilrea) carried the play to the goal area and had made a play on the goal. A rebound resulted and Bruneteau banged it in on a scramble. There was a fair crowd in front of the net.

“I was supposed to get half the puck as a memento. But Jim Norris (owner James E. Norris’ son) got it.”

The Wings swept the Maroons in three games, setting up the championship series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Wings won the first two games at Olympia Stadium, but lost the next game at Maple Leaf Garden, 4-3, in overtime, after squandering a 3-0 lead.

In Game 4, also at Maple Leaf Garden, the Wings led 2-1 after the second period on goals from Ebbie Goodfellow and Marty Barry. Kelly scored what would be the Cup-clinching goal at 9:45 of the third period. His shot hit the support bar at the back of the net and came out so quickly the goal judge didn’t turn on the light.

Kelly began to panic.

“I thought they weren’t going to count it since the light didn’t go on,” Kelly said. “I started to complain to the goal judge, then I saw referee Bill Stewart come over and say, ‘Yes, yes, yes, I saw it go in.’ ”

Ten minutes later, the Red Wings celebrated their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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