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Stars Win Stanley Cup In 3 OTs

The Dallas Stars were almost too exhausted to lift the Stanley Cup -- and the Buffalo Sabres were almost too mad to let go.

Brett Hull scored at 14:51 of the third overtime, putting a rebound over weary Dominik Hasek as the Stars won hockey's biggest prize as much by exhaustion as execution, outlasting the Sabres 2-1 Saturday night.

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  • It was the second-longest overtime game in Stanley Cup Finals history and the longest to decide a winner -- and a disputed winner at that. The Sabres protested Hull's left skate was in the crease as he scored to make Dallas the first Sun Belt city to hoist the Stanley Cup.

    When Lord Stanley paid $50 for the Cup in 1892, he likely didn't envision it being won by a team located much closer to Mexico than Canada.

    "We had nothing left. They had nothing left. Thank God it's over," Stanley Cup playoff MVP Joe Nieuwendyk of Dallas said.

    The game may have been over. The arguing was only beginning.

    The Sabres refused to leave their locker room for 20 minutes, claiming the goal shouldn't have counted. When they heard NHL officials supervisor Bryan Lewis' explanation that Hull had possession of the puck both inside and outside of the crease, they almost couldn't believe it.

    It was the NHL's worst nightmare -- to have one of the most exciting, if lowest scoring, Finals in years decided by a controversial play. TV replays showed Hull's left skate in the crease before he shot.

    Brett Hull's foot is in the crease during the winning goal.
    Brett Hull's foot is in the crease during the winning goal. (AP)

    "Can he have a foot in (the crease) and the goal count? Yes." Lewis said. "He played the puck from his foot to his stick and shot and scored. He was deemed to be in control and possession of the puck even if a skate was in crease."

    Lewis said this very scenario -- a skate being in the crease but a goal being counted -- was contained in a March 25 memorandum to officials.

    Hasek was among the most upset.

    "It makes me very mad. It could happen any time during the season, but if it happens in a Stanley Cup Final ... I still cannot believe it," he said. "I don't understand what the video judge is doing. Maybe he was in the bathroom. Maybe he was sleeping. Maybe he doesn't know the rule."

    After seeing the replay, Hasek said, "I was going to put my jersey on and go back out."

    Hull replied, "All I know is, I'm not going back out there."

    The Sabres' Joe Juneau suggested the NHL didn't want the embarrassment of restarting a game that everybody thought had ended.

    "It was a gutless move," he said.

    Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, "That's your worst nightmare right there. We're going to protest, of course. Anybody could see it. It wasn't a goal. All we want is a review. They said it was a good goal."

    Hull ended the intense , suspenseful game with his third goal of the series and third career overtime playoff goal.

    Hasek, outplayed again by Ed Belfour, went to his chest to bounce on a shot by Jere Lehtinen, who scored the first goal four hours before. But the puck rebounded into the slot to Hull, who lifted it into the net from the right side of the crease.

    "You can have all the other ones, this is the biggest for me," Hull said. "It is unbelievable."

    Hull's name goes on the ancient trophy with that of his father, Bobby, who won an NHL title with Chicago in 1961.

    Even after three overtimes, Brett Hull still finds the energy to hoist the Stanley Cup above his head.  <b>
    Even after three overtimes, Brett Hull still finds the energy to hoist the Stanley Cup above his head. (AP)

    "It is unbelievable starting out as a kid growing up in that shadow and finally making a niche for myself," Bret Hull said. "This finally completes the cycle. I hope someday my son or grandkids can do it."

    Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said Hull played in the last two games with a left knee that needs reconstructive surgery and two injured groin muscles.

    "He may be rehabbing when the next season starts," Hitchcock said. "He played on one knee and no groins the last three shifts. He limped to the front of the net. He limped into the corner."

    "I'm glad there isn't a Game 7, because I don't know where this team would be (physically) if we did."

    Dallas' delight at winning a Stanley Cup only six years after the Minnesota North Stars relocated there probably is surpassed only by Buffalo's disappointment at losing -- again.

    The Buffalo Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls earlier in the 1990s, once when Scott Norwood's game-winning field goal attempt against the New York Giants sailed wide.

    Once again Saturday, Buffalo was wide right. Juneau, Michael Peca and Alexei Zhitnik all missed excellent scoring chances from the third period on that sailed to the right by Belfour.

    Of course, 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.

    "It was really worth it," Hitchcock said. "It was such an endurance test. I'm proud of the team. They reached every goal we set. It was unbelievable."

    "I said from Christmas on that this is a magical team. We might have a better team one day, but this was a magical team."

    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 1940.

    "Today is the happiest day of my life," Belfour said. "It is just unbelievable. I'm just happy to be on this team and get a chance to play on such a great team. ... I am a hardworking goaltender and am happy to be on this team."

    The overtime lasted 54:51, the longest in the finals except for Edmonton's 3-2 victory over Boston in Game 1 in 1990 that lasted 55:13.

    Dallas, which allowed the first goal in the earlier two games played at Marine Midland Arena, took a 1-0 lead on one of its few scoring chances in the first period.

    Lehtinen skated to Mike Modano's pass at the bottom of the left circle and, with Darryl Shannon hanging off his left shoulder, slipped the puck through a narrow opening between Hasek's right pad and the goal post at 8:09.

    Modano assisted othe Stars' final five goals of the series, including both in Game 5 and Game 6. Modano led the Stars with 23 points in the playoffs, two more than Nieuwendyk. All seven of Modano's points in the finals were on assists.

    Ed Belfour stops 53 shots to lead the Stars to the Cup.
    Ed Belfour stops 53 shots to lead the Stars to the Cup. (AP)

    The Sabres' defense tightened following Lehtinen's 10th playoff goal. But so did an offense that hadn't scored since the third period of Game 4 -- until Stu Barnes beat Belfour late in the second period on the Sabres' 26th shot.

    Seconds after a Dallas line change momentarily left six Stars on the ice, Barnes wristed the puck from the right circle into the unguarded right side of the net at 18:21 just as Belfour shifted to protect the short side.

    Barnes' third goal of the finals and seventh of the playoffs stopped a Sabres scoreless streak that had stretched to 130 minutes, 44 seconds. But the suspense was only beginning.

    Belfour, no longer saddled with the reputation of being unable to win the big game, stopped 53 of 54 shots. Hasek, playing in his first finals as a starter, made 48 saves.

    ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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