Stars Grab Stanley Cup in Triple Overtime|
By Ray Van Horn, Jr. Copyright 1999
In a series that will be regarded as one to remember, the Buffalo Sabres
put up a noble fight through six periods of play, but it was the Dallas Stars
who fulfilled a seemingly predordained destiny by winning the Stanley Cup in
Game 6 by the score of 2-1 in triple overtime.
The Sabres fought valiantly throughout the game, outplaying the Stars in many aspects, only to lose the game and the series on a contraversial Brett Hull score that will be recorded in sports history books as one of the all-time questionable game endings.
As the hard checking and scoring opportunities erupted instantly from the game's start, the Stars settled down and controlled the Sabres during the first period through tight-knit trap defense that has been their trademark this season.
Jere Lehtinen opened the scoring at 8:09 of the first period. Lehtinen fought off Darryl Shannon's defense to bounce the puck off of Dominik Hasek's leg pad for the goal. Hasek was lax on the play, believing the puck to have trickled behind the net. Mike Modano picked up an assist.
As Buffalo appeared beaten early on--having been outshot by Dallas 11-5 in the first period--the Sabres resurged in the ensuing period. Having averaged below 20 shots in Games 3 and 4, the Sabres teed off on Dallas' Ed Belfour 21 times in the period. Belfour was seemingly impenetrable as Buffalo methodically kept the Stars pinned in their zone until 18:26, when they finally aced Belfour on a Stu Barnes netter.
Alexei Zhitnik initiated the play to Wayne Primeau, who fed the puck to Barnes. Barnes fired a strong wrist shot past Dallas' Guy Carbonneau and Ed Belfour. Carbonneau smashed his stick in half against the goal post in frustration as the nervous, vocal crowd at Marine Midland Arena erupted in a frenzy. Barnes commented at that intermission, "All we're thinking about is getting through this and forcing Game 7."
The Sabres played as good as their word, trading loads of forechecking with the Stars, as well as executing numerous play-busting poke checks to force triple overtime.
However, the 1-1 deadlock was finally broken at 14:48 of the third overtime by Brett Hull, who worked his own rebounds to get the puck past Dominik Hasek to give the Stars the Stanley Cup.
The contraversy arose after the Stars' emotional celebration had retreated to the locker room, when Buffalo protested that Hull's skate was in the crease when he scored the game-winner. Video replay bears that Hull was indeed in the crease, leaving a sour taste in what was otherwise a savory Stanley Cup tournament.
Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff vented, "This is a nightmare...all I wanted was a review...everybody saw it..."
Regardless, the series is over, and Dallas takes the trophy, having bested the Sabres 4 games to 2. Joe Nieuwendyk commented on the gruelling length of Game 6: "...we've got nothing left, they've got nothing left. Thank God it's over."
Goalie Ed Belfour was absolutely sterling in net, making 53 saves versus Hasek's 48. Belfour noted "I'm a hard working goaltender...It is my life dream to win the cup, and that's why I wanted to play for Dallas."
Pat Verbeek added, "It's been a heck of a run by our team...it's a hell of a feeling."
Stars' coach Ken Hitchcock was beaming at the game's end, quoting, "I am proud of this team. This is a special team. I don't know if I will ever get the privilege to coach a team like this again."
Copyright©1999 The HockeyNut