Skyreach Centre - Edmonton, AB
Next up on the countdown is the first of four handshake lines for the Dallas Stars in the spring of 1999. The Stars had suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of these Edmonton Oilers just two years prior. That loss spurned the acquisition of Ed Belflour, and two Presidents Trophies and a WCF appearance later Dallas avenged the defeat with an emphatic, though competitive sweep, sans their captain Derian Hatcher.
Pace, goatlending, physicality - This game had it all, and the highlights (after the jump) remind us of the tremendously high level of puck the Stars played that night, and it only got better as the infamous overtime periods ensued, culminating in a Joe Nieuwendyk winner.
Stars fans have been fortunate over the years to experience overtime classics bountiful in quantity and also quality. Colorado, New Jersey, Buffalo, San Jose, Anaheim, Vancouver, and this Edmonton game come to mind immediately as epic nights that will live in Dallas Stars (and NHL) infamy. The Dallas Stars have been involved in five of the top eighteen longest overtime games in history.
This one still ranks as #16 on the all time longest NHL game list, three minutes longer than a certain other classic yet to be featured on this list. The Stars have been involved in 5 of the 10 longest overtime games in the post-"Original Six"-era.
Continued after the jump...
The Stars had a to break an 0-for-19 power play stretch in this one to get on the board early in the third period and amusingly Razor remarks just prior that "special teams and goaltending" are how you win on the road in this league- A mantra he maintains and references frequently even 13 years later.
Joe Nieuwendyk may have just been getting started in his relentless march to hoisting the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophies but what a start it is here. The highlights have the Stars current GM all over nearly every high quality chance, plus the Stars' first tally and the eventual late-night overtime winner. Not Modano. Not Hull. Nieuwendyk. He was the bull that summer that the Stars think Jamie Benn can be in his prime. Big, physical, and just dominant.
It's a pleasure to watch again every time I have the opportunity. Also of curiosity in this one (and the series as a whole) is that Nieuwendyk wore the 'C' on his chest while Hatcher served his suspension. It's an unusual move to put a 'C' on a player for a week while waiting for the proper captain to return. He played like a captain in this one.
It seems like we say this a lot when we watch these old contests but the apparent illegality, at least to our 2012 trained hockey brains, of just about every way players defended in that era is astounding. The clutching, the grabbing, the interference, the lateness of the hits...it was the playoffs, yes, but things have changed since then. A lot.
Another thing that jumps out as we remember a classic like this is the apparent pace of the game - the overtimes especially, which are available to watch in their entirety on the internet. This Dallas Stars team is remembered as one that could bring home a 2-1 victory with fantastic goaltending more o ften than not, but they could get out and run a little bit if challenged. It wasn't always a defensive struggle, and this is a hallmark of a great team: The ability to play multiple styles of games to get the job done. They didn't always do it, but in this game they did at times.
In the end this one will be remembered for three nearly complete, furiously contested, outstandingly goaltended overtime periods that kept us up in Dallas until (what I seem to remember was) about 2:00am on a Tuesday night. Long tenured Stars fans remember exactly where they were and what exactly they were going to be VERY tired for the next day when that puck finally went off of Joe Nieuwendyk's leg. (In this Stars' fans case it was high school.)
A series sweep was exactly what this bunch needed. It's easy to say it in hindsight, but it showed the hockey world and the casual fans in the city of Dallas what many of us already knew: They were on a mission, and they were going to methodically slice their way through the Western Conference on the way to the Cup. The looks on their faces after the game - Or at every stoppage of play, if you like, said it all. This was a composed, veteran team that had atremendous season and knew what it was there to do.
Even in a first round exit this would still have been one of the greatest hockey games we'd have ever seen. That it was part of that most magical of summers puts it in our top 5 Dallas Stars playoff games of all time.
My favorite audio bit from these highlights via Razor...
"Another one of those mind flatulations by (Janne) Niinimaa. What was he thinking?"
Which is funny because 7 years later , of course, the Stars traded that same mentally flatulent Niinimaa for Mike Ribeiro.