Colorado Avalance @ Dallas Stars
Western Conference Finals, Game 7 - Series tied 3-3
May 27, 2000
If there is one opponent that defined the Dallas Stars best years in the playoffs, it's probably the Colorado Avalanche.
Sure, they eventually won the Stanley Cup against the Buffalo Sabres, lost it to the New Jersey Devils and made doormats of the Edmonton Oilers after finding their way in 1998. But it was the seven-game series against the Avalanche that really defined the runs the team made in 1999 and 2000.
We'll get to that 1999 series in a bit on this countdown, but today's look is at the epic game 7 from the next year. Both series against the Avalanche basically defined the word epic, and the effort the veteran-laden Stars had to expend to get past their rivals in 2000 likely cost them in early in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Devils. But the games themselves, especially the decisive one where Ed Belfour showed that he was, once again when it mattered, better than Patrick Roy.
As that series started, the Avs had once again knocked off the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semi-finals, and with the mid-season trade for the legendary Ray Bourque, were a team of destiny in the minds of many. But the Stars as a team, and Ed Belfour in particular, had something to say about that, hanging on to a slim 3-2 lead in the final frantic minutes.
But before Belfour's hip and a friendly goalpost could send the Stars to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Stars had to build that lead, which came from contributors expected and, well, not so much.
Continued after the jump...
First, let's reset how the series had gotten to another Game 7.
Like the 1999 series, the teams had split the first two games, with the Avalanche winning the first game at Reunion Arena. But it was the Avs, behind offensive dynamos Adam Deadmarsh and Shjon Podein, who took Game 3 2-0, ,their second shutout of the Stars in the series. The Stars came back to decisively win Game 4 4-1, but the score was anything but indicative. Belfour made 38 saves on 39 shots while Patrick Roy had one of those games, letting four of the 15 Stars shots into his net.
The Stars leaned heavily on Belfour again in Game 5 but took the series lead for the first time when Joe Nieuwendyk snuck behind the Avalanche defense to tip a shot from Richard Matvichuk past Roy in overtime. But Bourque came through for the Avs in Game 6 with a goal and an assist and sent the series back to Dallas.
But the Avs didn't bring their discipline with them and paid for a pair of early penalties. On the first, Sergei Zubov demonstrated his mastery of running a penalty kill, creating more scoring chances in a minute than the Stars did in entire games worth of special teams this season and eventually sneaking a point shot past a very upset Roy.
For what it's worth, I'm sorry the only videos I can seem to find from this part of the game are in Russian. But it's a beautiful goal no matter what language it's called in. And cranky Patrick Roy really does transcend all languages.
The Avs didn't learn their lesson about putting the Stars on the power play, though, as Dave Andreychuck took a roughing penalty with 16 seconds left in the period (and I'd give my left sock to know how much it took to get a roughing in one of these ridiculously nasty series). It took about 10 seconds for Mike Modano to make him pay with the Stars second power play goal of the night.
Things only got better for the Stars in the second period, as the shot of Derian Hatcher, the backside of Mike Keane and the skate of a fallen Roman Lyashenko combined for the eventual game winner. When things like this are going your way, it's surely going to be your night, right?
It sure looked like it would be the Stars night for the rest of the period. And the penalty kill was stellar once again, holding the very dangerous Avs to 0-for-3 and 0-for their final 17 in the series.
But a shorthanded situation for the Avs proved to be the turning point. Peter Forsberg, likely free of his Matvichuk-shaped shadow because of the Stars power play, beat Belfour a little more than five minutes into the third. Milan Hejduk tipped home a Bourque shot three minutes later, and a white-knuckle finale was on.
As we mentioned in a Top Moments post from last weekend, this was the game that started the "Eddie's better" chant. And he completely deserved it. The Stars did manage to hold the Avalanche mostly at bay before the final minutes, when an extra attacker created havoc in the Stars end. But Belfour, unlike Roy, stayed calm and in position, keeping nearly everything in front of him. Sure, he got a little luck from the post, but he also caught a part of that Bourque shot with his hip and deflected it away from the net behind him.
In the end, it was a 3-2 victory in the game and a 4-3 victory in the series for the Stars. It was the last time they'd hoist (or, er, stand awkwardly next to) the Clarance Campbell Bowl, not that we knew that at the time. And it felt somehow more improbable than 1999, when the Stars were the President's Trophy winners and had the sense they were on the verge of a breakthrough.
This time around, it was the Avs who were supposed to be that team of destiny carrying Ray Bourque to that long awaited Stanley Cup title so that his name and number could forever hang in the rafters alongside other long-time Avalanche greats. The Stars were injury plagued and, although they were defending Stanley Cup champions, their experience and age was looked on as a negative since they had played well into the summer the previous year.
In fact, the Stars became one of only two Stanley Cup champions since the most recent repeat winner to make it back to the Finals the next year, joined by the 2001 Devils and 2009 Red Wings. It's ridiculously hard to repeat as champion, and even in the era of Stars, Wings, Avs and Devils dominance, the defending champs only made it back to the Finals once - the back-to-back titles by the 1997 and 1998 Wings.
Sure, that season might not have ended with Hatcher hoisting the Cup above his head. But the ride to get so close, especially the thrilling victory over the Avalanche, shines just the same.