Nothing like OT with Cup on line
Oh, man, I love this.
It’s so hockey, the way these names skitter across your eyes and carom to weird, dangerous places, only to stop on the doorstep of a little miniature snow fort.
I looked up the list of Stanley Cup overtime series-winning goals Saturday morning, of which there were 16 as of a few hours earlier.
At the top of the list resides Mush March of the Chicago Blackhawks, who in 1934 beat Wilf Cude of the Detroit Red Wings at 10:05 of the second overtime in Game 4 of the best-of-five Stanley Cup finals.
Mush March, Wilf Cude.
Henri Richard, Roger Crozier.
Bobby Orr, Glenn Hall.
Brett Hull, Dominik Hasek.
Alec Martinez … Henrik Lundqvist.
I had no emotional investment in the New York Rangers or Los Angeles Kings other than the usual East Coast bias and other temporary constructions based on factors like Original Six and rooting on behalf of friends who are Rangers fans. If I know any Kings fans, the subject has never come up.
So why was I so heavily involved in Game 5 Friday night/Saturday morning?
Because that’s what Stanley Cup hockey does, in general, and does to an utterly gripping degree when we get into overtime of a potentially Cup-clinching game, no matter who’s playing.
There’s nothing like it.
It won’t be a surprise if the World Cup comes down to such circumstances, and if it does, it will be exquisite theater because of the stakes and the heart-stopping immediacy with which the teams will be awarded/denied.
But the Stanley Cup finals takes all that and packages it in an absurdly more riveting kaleidoscope of action that thrusts your heart in the middle of all those colorful shards of glass and tells it to just hang on for the ride.
“The Goal” by Bobby Orr in 1970 is one of the most iconic images in the history of sports.
“No Goal” by Brett Hull in 1999 is one of the most angst-inducing images in the history of sports, at least for the Capital of Angst, Buffalo, N.Y., birthplace of this season’s Sabres-related Twitter hashtag “#suffering”.
The exhausting five-game series that seemed like it went all seven between the Kings and the Rangers was punctuated by a poignant and almost haunting image of goalie Lundqvist, who did everything humanly possible to keep his team in the series against a relentless and better opponent.
To reinforce a running theme throughout the Stanley Cup, the Rangers hit two posts in overtime, most notably Ryan McDonagh’s shot from the left circle that was so close to going in that it kicked back at a sharper angle than it traveled while rocketing in off McDonagh’s stick.
The rebound actually slid behind Jonathan Quick, inches from the goalmouth, to a spot out of harm’s way to Quick’s right.
The game ended when Lundqvist valiantly but helplessly split to his right in a vain attempt to get to Alec Martinez’s rebound one-timer with all kinds of net to shoot at with a lousy 5:17 left in the second overtime.
Celebrations are always fun to watch, but you couldn’t take your eyes off Lundqvist.
As the Kings mobbed up against the glass in the right corner behind him, the Rangers goalie fell face down on the ice, Kings’ gloves hurled high in glee landing on the ice within feet of his outstretched arms.
The fallen King Henrik stayed that way for a few beats, then slowly rose to his knees and lifted his chin to the ceiling with eyes closed behind the mask.
Even when his teammates finally skated over to console him, he seemed to wave them off for a moment to gather himself.
Mask tipped back like a welder coming off a grueling shift that ended with a pink slip, Lundqvist was last through the handshake line.
“It is the noble tradition … one has to wait, while the other celebrates,” broadcaster Doc Emrick said.
“I’ve never been so tired,” Lundqvist said in the locker room. “I feel like I’ve done everything I could to try to help the team. It was not enough against this team.”
There was nothing melodramatic or theatrical about any of it.
The joy on the faces of the Kings, worthy champions, told the story, but there’s purity in despair, too.