As the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins make overtime hockey a regular topic of water cooler banter across the continent, us Dallas Stars fans just get to sit back and chuckle. To Dallas Stars fans, marathon hockey games are old hat... a right of passage... a long lost friend that we know so well, but haven't seen in five years.
The idea for this article hit me about a week ago, when the Los Angeles Kings were playing the Chicago Blackhawks in what would eventually become the final game of the Kings' unsuccessful title defense. Early in the second period, Twitter erupted with chatter that this was the longest game in the history of the Kings franchise. How could that be? Then I remembered that my sense of time is skewed, for I am a Dallas Stars fan.
In fact, the longest game in Los Angeles Kings history wouldn't have even ranked in the top 5 of the Stars list. The Stars franchise is fairly old, as Tom Gaglardi would call "a second six franchise," but you don't even need to dig into this franchise's Minnesota history to find the five longest games in the history of this team. The oldest game happened in the first round of the Stars Cup run in 1999, against the Edmonton Oilers.
At the time, this was the longest game in franchise history. Opening round, game four. Dallas Stars in the midst of one of their legendary playoff battles against the Edmonton Oilers. The Stars were already up three games to zero, in a series that was much closer than the series-score would indicate. Recently retired Wayne Gretzky would drop the ceremonial puck in front of the fans that witnessed him make history as a young man.
The score was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation, and there would not be another tally until well into the third overtime period. Five hours and twenty minutes into the game, Sergei Zubov would fire a puck towards Tommy Salo. Joe Nieuwendyk got to it before Salo, and the puck deflected past the Swedish netminder, to end the Oilers season, only minutes after Gretzky left the building to catch an early flight.
Later that same playoff, the Stars would play in the most memorable and notable game in franchise history, even if it wasn't quite as long as the battle in Edmonton. The stage was the Stanley Cup Finals, at Buffalo's Marine Midland Arena. Game Six, with the Stars leading the series three games to two against the Buffalo Sabres.
In a series filled with physicality, anger, and dare I say hatred, the Dallas Stars found themselves in another war of attrition, this time with a much greater prize at stake than simply a first round sweep of an old rival. Jere Lehtinen would provide Dallas with their only offense of regulation, as he magically snuck a puck between Dominik Hasek's hip and the goal post in the opening period.
Future Dallas Star Stu Barnes would answer that tally in the second period, beating Ed Belfour to score the final goal of the Buffalo Sabres season. The remainder of the game would be a back and forth affair with both sides getting plenty of chances, only to be turned away by the other's legendary netminder. Before anyone realized it, Saturday night turned into Sunday (Fathers Day!) morning, and we all know what happened next.
In the most glorious and controversial and wonderful moment in NHL history, Brett Hull finally put another puck past Dominik Hasek, and the Dallas Stars became the 1999 Stanley Cup Champions. Ahh, the memories.
Only a few years later, in 2003, the Dallas Stars would be facing off against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in what would become the fourth longest NHL game ever played. This was the first game of the second round in 2003. The Dallas Stars were fresh off another defeat of the Edmonton Oilers, while the Mighty Ducks had just swept the defending champion Detroit Red Wings.
The Ducks were riding high on the back of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was in the process of putting together the most stellar post-season I've ever seen a goaltender experience. The score was 3-3 at the end of regulation, but Giguere and Marty Turco were just getting warmed up.
The two teams would play more than another full game of shutout hockey, almost two. Not until the fifth overtime period would anyone be able to slide a puck into the other team's net, when Petr Sykora would break the hearts of Stars fans everywhere.
Marty Turco got much of the blame for the Stars failures in that era, but the man made 50 saves, with a .926 save percentage that game. The Stars just never could seem to score when they needed one, and they ended up losing the series in six games.
The heartache wouldn't be over just yet, as the Stars would face another heartbreak just four years later, in the opening round against the Vancouver Canucks. This time it would be Marty Turco facing off against Roberto Luongo, in what was supposed to be a fairly close series between the sixth seeded Stars and the third seeded Vancouver side.
Many of these marathon games are low scoring affairs from the get-go, but this game was different. Each team had managed four goals during regulation, before playing four more periods of hockey, making this the sixth longest game in NHL history, and second longest in Stars history.
This was the opening game of the first round, and the first of three overtime contests in a seven game series. Henrik Sedin would beat Marty Turco eighteen minutes into the fourth overtime period, and the Stars never seemed to fully recover.
For the rest of the series, the Stars only won games in which Marty Turco recorded a shutout, which was only good enough for three wins in a first to four series.
The very next year, the Dallas Stars would take part in 8th longest game in NHL history, this time returning to the much happier results to which Stars fans had become accustomed. In the Stars only (relatively) recent playoff run, the opponent was the San Jose Sharks in second round.
The Stars had just removed the Anaheim Ducks from postseason contention in the opening round, and were set to face another division rival in the Conference Semi-Finals. It was game six, at American Airlines Center, with the Dallas Stars leading the series three games to two. The game was tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation, but Brenden Morrow was on a mission.
Not only would Morrow deliver one of the best hits of his entire career in the dying seconds of regulation, he would also score the game winning goal in the fourth overtime, to eliminate Jeremy Roenick and the San Jose Sharks. I firmly believe it was these playoffs and these playoffs alone that catapulted Morrow forever into Stars lore as a monster in the clutch.
These five contests all rank in the top 18 of longest NHL games ever, easily giving the franchise a 25% share of the top 20, a pretty remarkable statistic, all things considered. So when you hear fans of other teams complain about missing sleep, or brag about how they're toughing it out after a late night in front of the TV, just pat them on the back and tell them you feel their pain. As a Dallas Stars fan, you're a pro.