BOSTON, MAY 24 -- Kevin Lowe, the learned Edmonton defenseman who played tonight with two black eyes, stood in the hallway outside the raucous Oilers locker room and made the pronouncement of the Stanley Cup playoffs:
"Ranford. That's the story of the playoffs as far as I'm concerned."
That's Bill Ranford, the man who stopped 29 of 30 Boston shots tonight as the Oilers won the Stanley Cup with a 4-1 victory in Game 5. Bill Ranford, the 23-year-old ex-Bruin who looked around as the fans of Boston stood and cheered him when he received the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' most valuable player. Unconscious, unbelievable Bill Ranford, Edmonton's hero to replace you-know-who.
"I never dreamed of being here," said Ranford, quickly correcting himself to say, "I mean, that's all I did, I dreamed of being here."
His hair was wet with sweat or champagne, no one was certain. His skin was pasty, looking almost like he was about to pass out. Ranford trudged down the hall in his uniform and goalie pads, not having a moment to relax before talking about a wonderful series.
"Whenever I wasn't seeing the puck, it found a way to hit me," he said. "What can I say? This won't sink in for days, weeks, months, the rest of my life."
It was not always like this for Ranford. Not too long ago, Edmonton was losing its first-round playoff series with Winnipeg, three games to one. In the first game of that 1989 series, the Jets won, 7-5, and Ranford, playing in place of the injured Grant Fuhr, was blamed for the onslaught.
"I took a lot of flak," Ranford said. "It's something that a lot of my teammates came to me and said, 'That's one for you to get back at everybody that jumped on you.' "
"The way he battled back was phenomenal," Lowe said of that first series. "Just phenomenal. He had more pressure on him than I've ever seen. The Conn Smythe is not enough for him."
But it will do tonight. Ranford made some spectacular saves, among them a sliding, diving stop on Craig Janney exactly one minute before Glenn Anderson scored the first goal of the game at the start of the second period.
"That was the situation that turned the tide," he said. "You make a big save for your team and then the team comes back and makes a big play for you."
In the third period, with the game already out of reach for Boston, Ranford made perhaps his most athletic move of the night, moving in a split second from one side of the net to the other to block Brian Propp's rebound attempt with his chest.
But he played like this throughout the series. In Game 1, he stopped 50 of 52 shots in triple overtime.
As the last couple seconds ticked off the clock above the ice in Boston Garden, Ranford slipped behind the net to where a teammate stood, cradling the puck with his stick. He reached down and picked up the puck as the horn sounded. He held on tight.