It was a situation--sudden-death overtime in the Boston Bruins' seventh game in 11 days--in which Brad Park, looking toward his 35th birthday while nursing two bad knees, figured to be on the bench, gasping for youth.
Instead, it was the aging defenseman who scored on his own rebound at 1:52 of extra time for his second goal of the game and a 3-2 victory for the Boston Bruins in the deciding contest of a brutal Adams Division final series with the Buffalo Sabres.
Barry Pederson, who scored the other Boston goal as the Bruins fought back from a 2-0 deficit, began the climactic play by winning a faceoff from Dale McCourt in the Buffalo end. The puck came back to Park, but his initial shot was blocked by Craig Ramsay.
Park regained possession and suddenly the Sabres seemed frozen in time. Goalie Bob Sauve and defensemen Mike Ramsey and Hannu Virta all were down on the ice and seemed unable to rise as Park skated in and drilled the puck over them to end the game. While Park raised his stick in triumph, the three Sabres stayed on hands and knees, heads down.
"At the start of the overtime, we were talking about the importance of winning the draws, especially in their end, because we had to get some shots," Park said afterward, wearing an ancient golfer's cap he claimed symbolized a defenseman's hat trick--two goals. "Pete got the draw and I shot, but Craig Ramsay got his stick on it. The puck hit somebody and then it came toward me, sitting down flat in perfect position.
"Everybody was down and I just said, 'Get it up, get it up.' It's my biggest thrill in hockey. I'd never scored an overtime goal and I'd never won the seventh game.
"I'm exhausted. It was a tough series and when you get to the seventh game and sudden death, there are a lot of nervous stomachs. I don't think I'm going to go home and play with the kids tonight."
The ultimate in hockey excitement, overtime in the seventh game of a playoff series, occurred after the Bruins scored twice within 2 minutes 49 seconds of the second period to erase the 2-0 lead Buffalo had built on goals by Ric Seiling.
The Sabres controlled the first period, in which the Bruins were surprisingly tentative, and produced the lone goal when Seiling got his first playoff score at 10:42.
Mike Ramsey was tied up by Mike O'Connell in the left-wing corner, but was able to kick the puck to Seiling, who skated into the faceoff circle and lined a shot off the pad of goalie Pete Peeters into the net.
It became 2-0 at 3:50 of the second period, as Andre Savard sent a long pass from the right-wing corner to Ramsey at the left point and Seiling deflected Ramsey's shot behind Peeters.
The Bruins responded to the urgency of their situation and bombarded Sauve, who was fortunate when O'Connell sent a rebound of a shot by Rick Middleton over the net.
With each team a man short, Ray Bourque hit a post behind Sauve. Then Middleton took the puck from Lindy Ruff behind the Buffalo net and sent a centering pass toward Pederson in the slot. Sauve got a piece of it but Pederson still was able to sweep it into the half-empty net at 6:32. It was Pederson's 10th goal in 11 playoff games.
Peeters kept the Bruins in touch with a sensational stop on Phil Housley, who went in on a clean breakaway after Dale McCourt knocked the puck loose from Boston's Gord Kluzak.
When Buffalo's Gil Perreault was penalized for holding Luc Dufour, the Boston power play produced the tying score. Ramsay's attempted clear went right onto O'Connell's stick and a couple of quick passes left Park open just inside the blueline.
That goal, at 9:21 of the second period, was the last until Park's winner. If there was nearly unbearable tension, there were few good scoring chances, as both teams played extremely close-checking hockey.