LA Kings Legend Dave Taylor Reminisces About The Miracle on Manchester

LOS ANGELES — As some Los Angeles Kings fans will recall, the Triple Crown Line, featuring superstar center Marcel Dionne, left wing Charlie Simmer, and right wing Dave Taylor was one of the best forward lines in National Hockey League history. Sadly, and not just for the Kings, they remained together for a relatively short time, just two-and-half seasons.

Despite the success of the Triple Crown Line, the Kings were still a mediocre team, perhaps not even mediocre, in the 1981-82 season, when they ended the regular season in fourth place in the Smythe Division, a whopping 48 points behind the first place Edmonton Oilers.

That set the stage for the Kings being huge underdogs when they faced the Oilers in the first round of the Campbell Conference Quarterfinals.

“We trailed them in the standings by a huge amount in the Smythe Division,” said Taylor.

But the series got off to an unexpected start, with the underdogs beating the vaunted Oilers, 10-8, in Game 1.

After things went as expected in Game 2, with the Oilers winning, 3-2, the teams headed to Los Angeles for games 3 and 4.

What happened next was unfathomable. The Kings were horrible in the first and second periods of Game 3 on April 10, 1982, at the Forum in Inglewood, California. After two periods, the Kings found themselves looking way, way up at a huge, 5-0 deficit.

“It was pretty quiet on the bench during the first two periods,” said Taylor. “We hadn’t played well. The thought process, between the second and third periods wasn’t so much, ‘Hey! We’re going to come back and win this.’ It was, ‘Let’s win a period and get ready for the next game. Let’s win the first five minutes and see where we are.’”

What happened after the second period became known as the Miracle on Manchester.

“We were down, 5-0, and then we got one early in the third [scored by defenseman Jay Wells at 2:46],” Taylor reminisced. “He put one in through traffic, and all of a sudden, we had a little bit of life.”

After Doug Smith scored at 5:58, suddenly, everything changed.

“Once we scored a couple of goals, it got really serious,” Taylor noted. “We expected that we were going to lose that game, coming out for the third period. But the way things started to unfold, particularly with that major penalty—we had a pretty good power play ourselves. All of a sudden, we had opportunities, and the puck started going in for us.”

“We just kept playing,” Taylor added, “[Later in the period, Oilers forward] Garry Unger high sticked Kings defenseman] Dave Lewis, and was given a major penalty. We scored twice on that power play, and once the score was 5-3, the momentum switched, the building came alive again, and it finished up the way it did.”

Simmer and Mark Hardy scored for the Kings, who now trailed by just one goal, and with just five seconds left, Steve Bozek got the puck in front and tied the game.

“It’s funny how momentum can switch like that, because, quite honestly, we were not very good for 40 minutes,” said Taylor. “We had a lot of positive energy when it turned that we could expend. They had chances to ice it, and we got a big save, or they missed the net. There were a lot of factors that went into it. But it just seemed like we got the right mindset that we were not going to be denied down the stretch.”

Up until the Kings scored a few goals, the Oilers were rather arrogant, pointing and laughing at the Kings.

“I think they believed the game was over,” Taylor said. “They didn’t expect that we were going to battle back off the mat and make a game of it, but that’s what happened. They had completely dominated the first two periods, so maybe they did get a little complacent. They were a confident group, no question.”

That complacency led to the Oilers’ demise in that game, as Kings left wing Daryl Evans, currently their radio color commentator, scored at 2:35 of overtime, beating Oilers goaltender Grant Fuhr over his right shoulder with a slapshot from outside the right face-off circle through traffic, completing what became the greatest comeback, in terms of the deficit in the score, in Stanley Cup Playoff History.

But it wasn’t all bad for the Oilers. Indeed, there was a big silver lining for them.

“As good as the Oilers were, they were a very young group,” Taylor noted. “That series helped them mature. The first time they faced the [then three-time Stanley Cup Championship] New York Islanders in the finals, they lost that, too. That was another big learning lesson for them, and the next year, they went on to win it all.”

In the next installment in this series, we’ll look at the latter years of Taylor’s career, including when The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, joined the Kings, changing the hockey landscape completely. Stay tuned.

LEAD PHOTO: Former Los Angeles Kings star right wing and former general manager Dave Taylor, currently the Vice President, Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues, shown here just outside of his hometown of Levack, Ontario during his day with the Stanley Cup after the Blues won the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Championship. Photo courtesy of the Dave Taylor Family Collection.

Frozen Royalty’s Dave Taylor Coverage

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