Brett Hull's controversial goal on a rebound at 14 minutes 51 seconds of the third overtime period lifted the Dallas Stars to a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Stars in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, giving the Stars their first championship in franchise history.
The goal gave the Stars a four-games-to-two victory in the best-of-seven series. Dallas is the southernmost city to hoist the cup.
On the winning play, Jere Lehtinen took a shot from the left circle that Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek saved. But Hull was alone in front and on his second whack knocked the puck past the fallen Hasek and into the goal.
Replays indicated that Hull's left skate was in the crease, which could have nullified the goal according to NHL goals. During the Stars' celebration, the Sabres remained in their locker room and refused to meet with the media for several minutes until they were given an official explanation for why the goal was allowed.
NHL director of officiating Bryan Lewis said that there was some debate about the goal but that it should have counted because Hull had possession of the puck.
Buffalo Coach Lindy Ruff disputed that claim. "Pandemonium sets in, they can't go back and review it" using the league's controversial replay system. "Once you get 200 people on the ice, they're not going to review it. . . . All I want is a review. I want a review."
Hull ended the second-longest Stanley Cup finals game in history with his third goal of the series and third career overtime playoff goal. The overtime lasted 54:51, the longest except for Edmonton's 3-2 victory over Boston in Game 1 in 1990 that lasted 55:13. The game ended at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
Buffalo defenseman James Patrick nearly won the game two minutes into the second overtime. Brian Holzinger won a faceoff back to Patrick at the right point and Patrick's slap shot beat Ed Belfour over the goalie's right shoulder but hit off the crossbar as a resounding "clink" echoed throughout the building.
Joe Nieuwendyk won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It was such an endurance test," Stars Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I'm so proud of this team I said from Christmas on that this was a magical team. . . . I don't know if I'll ever get the privilege to coach one like this again."
The odds also were in Dallas' favor as soon as the game went into overtime. The last six teams with a chance to win the cup in overtime have done so. Also, the road team has won the last eight Stanley Cup finals overtime games.
The Stars are the fourth team to win a Stanley Cup in a game decided in multiple overtimes, joining Colorado (1996), Detroit (1950) and Chicago (1934).
With 22 goals -- 13 by Dallas and nine by Buffalo -- it was the lowest-scoring six-game final round in Stanley Cup history. The record of 25 was set by the New York Rangers (14) and Toronto (11) in 1945.
Dallas, the oldest team in the league, appeared tired in overtime and was fortunate to get to the second overtime. Belfour made a tremendous save with seven minutes left in the first overtime when he was able to get his left leg on a shot from the slot that deflected off Dallas defenseman Derian Hatcher's stick and changed direction.
Just before that, Hasek made a nice blocker save on Joe Nieuwendyk's rising wrist shot from the right circle. With five minutes left, Belfour just got the toe of his left skate on a low slap shot by Alexei Zhitnik from the top of the left circle and the puck went inches wide of the far post. All but 5:35 of the series was played with the teams tied or with a one-goal lead.
Facing elimination for the first time this postseason, the Sabres responded with a tremendous performance. By the end of the second period, they had 26 shots on goal, more than they had in any entire game previously in the series.
Still, for more than 30 minutes of playing time, it appeared Lehtinen's goal might be the difference for Dallas. The Stars, noted for their tremendous defensive effort in the series, appeared tentative to play offensively. Aside from Lehtinen's goal at 8:09 of the first period, their only offensive chances were on the counterattack.
Buffalo was splendid yet still trailed 1-0 after the first period because of Lehtinen's 10th goal of the playoffs midway eight minutes into the game.
On the scoring play, Lehtinen skated down the left wing with Buffalo defenseman Darryl Shannon -- playing for the first time since April 21 after teammate Rhett Warrener broke his ankle in Game 5 -- checking him closely. Lehtinen cut in at the bottom of the faceoff circle and chipped a short shot that bounced off Hasek's right leg and into the goal at 8:09. Hasek shook his head in obvious frustration at having let in one of his softest goals of the playoffs.
Modano and Craig Ludwig were credited with assists, giving Modano a league-high 17 in the playoffs.
Summary on Page D14