Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals had the defending champion New Jersey Devils reciting from Butch and Sundance, asking, "Who are these guys?" after the Avalanche scored five unanswered goals in 60 minutes.
The Devils had an identity crisis of their own. "Tonight we looked like those guys with the shovels picking up the snow during the commercial breaks," center Bobby Holik said after the game. "We can analyze this 'til we are blue in the face but we got outplayed, outworked, outhustled, all departments."
"There's no way to sugarcoat it," added center Scott Gomez. "We got spanked."
"Joe could have wore eggs in his pants," Devils Coach Larry Robinson said, disgusted at the way his team left Sakic untouched in the first game.
For nearly three full days, the moment lingered as the Avs reveled in it and the Devils wallowed while the suspense heightened. The opening 10 minutes of Game 2 were goose-bump stirring. Could the Avs remain as dominant as they were in Game 1? Could Patrick Roy break the Finals shutout record and increase his nine-game Finals win streak?
The tide began to turn once Devils scrub Bobby Corkum, in for the injured winger Randy McKay, shattered the myth of the impenetrable Roy with a five-hole puck between the legs.
"When you dream happy dreams, you dream about scoring a goal," Corkum told reporters afterwards. And here I've been dreaming about chasing rabbits.
Three minutes later, the Devils sealed the deal in the doomed second game. Three seconds after a courageous double penalty kill by the Avs, surviving five-on-three hockey with double-clutch falling-down saves and inconceivable defensive play, Turner Stevenson scored the decisive goal against Roy.
"That one hurt," said Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque after the game. With the lead in hand, the Devils slowed down the game and stymied the quick Avalanche offense.
"You are not going to see the Colorado Avalanche with their heads down," Coach Bob Hartley said after the game as he prepared to leave for two games in New Jersey. "We faced adversity at numerous times and we always answered the bell very well. One more time, I will put my trust in my players."
-- Owen Perkins