North Stars continue to shine Improbable season heads for Cup finals

May 12, 1991|By Gary Olson | Gary Olson,Knight-Ridder News Service

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Five white banners sway in the rafters of Northlands Coliseum proclaiming the Edmonton Oilers' Stanley Cup championship teams: 1984, '85, '87, '88 and 1990.

There won't be one for 1991.

The Minnesota North Stars became the first team to stop the Oilers in the Campbell Conference championship series. The Stars defeated Edmonton, 3-2, Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 17,503 and won the best-of-seven series, 4-1.

The victory moved the North Stars into the Stanley Cup finals -- against the winner of the Pittsburgh-Boston series -- for the first time since 1981.

It took a goal by Bobby Smith, a star from that '81 team, to keep the North Stars' improbable season alive. Smith scored 41 seconds after Oilers captain Mark Messier had tied the score 2-2 early in the third period.

It also took a late, late break from referee Andy vanHellemond, who chose not to award a penalty shot to the Oilers' Anatoli Semenov when he was pulled down on a break 10 seconds before the end of the period.

The North Stars were presented the Clarence Campbell Bowl in a ceremony in the Northlands Coliseum concourse.

The Oilers' dynasty, five Cups in seven seasons, came to an end, as the Stars continued their magical march in the playoffs.

First, they beat the Chicago Blackhawks, the National Hockey League's best regular-season team. Next, they beat the St. Louis Blues, who finished one point behind the Blackhawks.

Then they had to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champion Oilers, and they did it by winning three consecutive games as well as two of the three played in Edmonton.

The Oilers, used to winning the tough games in May, showed no signs of urgency until the third period.

North Stars goalie Jon Casey outdueled Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr to win for the 12th time in the playoffs.

The Oilers, winners of more Stanley Cups than anyone in recent history, were so cool that they took only three shots at Casey during the first 16 minutes.

You have to admire that kind of calm. Edmonton was down three games to one in a best-of-seven series and 2-0 in the game, but there were no signs of panic. Only arrogance. Dave Brown, the NHL heavyweight champ, talked so tough he got a misconduct penalty in the first 30 seconds for talking nasty to a nearby North Star.

Mark Tinordi scored the Stars' 32nd power-play goal of the playoffs at 2 minutes, 6 seconds of the first period. It tied the Oilers' NHL record from 1988 and put the North Stars ahead 1-0.

Tinordi scored the goal -- his fifth and 10th point of postseason -- on a goal-mouth rebound of a Brian Propp backhand shot. Brian Bellows' pass sent Propp in against Fuhr, and the latter made the save but kicked the rebound into the slot.

About 10 minutes later and just 13 seconds after an Edmonton power play, Marc Bureau doubled the Stars' lead to 2-0 with a screen shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat Fuhr to the short side.

Even that didn't seem to stir the emotion of the Oilers, who would have had just a one-goal lead had Casey stayed in the dressing room for the first period.

The Oilers outshot Propp 5-4 in the period, but the Stars had a 15-5 cushion in shots.

The Oilers began the rally to save the series with a hectic start to the second period, when they got four shots in the first 10 1/2 minutes.

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