July 13, 2013

Daryl Evans

One of the biggest upsets in pro sports history happened in 1982. It became dubbed the Miracle on Manchester as the mediocre Los Angeles Kings upset Wayne Gretzky and the high flying Edmonton Oilers. While you expect names like Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor or Charlie Simmer to lead the way in such a feat, it was many of the Kings foot soldiers who stepped up their play to cause the upset. The foot soldier who stepped up the most in that series was Daryl Evans.

Evans was just a rookie at the time. In fact he only played in 14 NHL games prior to those playoffs after spending most of the season learning the pro game at the AHL level. Daryl, a Toronto native, scored 2 goals and 6 assists in his first taste of NHL action.

When the playoffs came along, the Kings were huge first round underdogs against Gretzky and the Oilers. Gretzky had just come off of his record smashing season of 92 goals and 212 points. Everyone expected the Oilers not only to simply destroy the Kings, but all the competition and meet the dynastic New York Islanders in the finals. However someone forgot to tell the Kings. The best of 5 opening round Smythe division battle was an offensive show. The Kings somehow managed to keep pace with the high scoring Oilers and took the Oilers to a decisive 5th game, eventually winning the game.

Evans was the hero in game one as he produced a 4 point night as the Kings shocked the Oilers. The Oilers stormed back in game two to win by an astounding score of 10-8.

The best game of the famous series was game 3 on April 10, 1982. Down 5-0 in the third period, the Kings stormed back to narrow Edmonton's commanding lead. Trailing the Oilers, 5-4, the Kings buzzed around in the Edmonton zone until Steve Bozek's shot beat Grant Fuhr to tie the historic contest with just five agonizing seconds remaining. The Forum was rocking when overtime began, and at 2:35 of the extra period, rookie Daryl Evans sent the puck over Fuhr's shoulder to end an incredible game.

"We trailed in the game 5-0 after two periods. I remember coach Don Perry and the rest of the guys saying let's go out there and play a strong third period and get some momentum for the next game. In that third period we got some breaks, especially with the major penalty to Edmonton late in the period, and tied it after regulation."

"On the winning goal we had myself, center Doug Smith and left wing Steve Bozek out for the draw in the Oiler zone to the right of Grant Fuhr. Smitty won the draw and I moved in about two feet and just shot. I wasn't really picking any opening I just was trying to get the shot on net. As it turned out I beat Fuhr up high over his right shoulder and before I knew it everyone on the team was piling on top of me at the other end of the ice."

The rest as they say is history. The Oilers tied the series at 2 a piece but it wasn't meant to be for the Oilers. The Kings would win and go on to face the Vancouver Canucks, but would lose to the Cinderella 'Nucks. Evans lead the Kings in playoff scoring with 13 points (5 goals and 8 assists) in 10 games.

Evan's incredible heroics and output in the playoffs obviously put a lot of pressure on the youngster to live up to that on a nightly basis. However Evans, who was the 178th player drafted in 1980, would struggle to equal his accomplishments of April 1982.

Evans played a full 80 games the following season, scoring 18 goals and 22 assists. He was however not big enough to play the physical NHL style long term, and also was a defensive liability. Evans would spend most of the final two seasons in the Kings organization with the farm team, appearing in only 11 NHL games.

In 1985 the Kings traded their hero to Washington but with the exception of 6 games Evans remained at the AHL level.

Evans signed as a free agent with his boyhood favorite Toronto Maple Leafs in 1986, and had the opportunity to appear in two games with the Leafs, even scoring 1 goal, his last in the NHL. Evans spent the three years with the Leafs farm team in Newmarket.

Evans left North America in 1989 but resurfaced in Europe. He played in 32 games for an Italian club called HC Gardena-Groden - scoring 32 goals and 97 points. The following season he landed in Britain for a handful of semi-pro games with the Wiltley Warriors in 1991. He had 10 goals and 19 points in his 6 regular season games, and then exploded for 18 goals and 40 points in just 8 games in the playoffs!

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