PITTSBURGH -- From the standpoint of defense, this free-skating free-for-all was more an All-Star Game than the opener of the playoff series that will bring one team the first Stanley Cup in 23 seasons of franchise history.
From the standpoint of brilliant play by brilliant centers, though, the Minnesota North Stars' stars shined just a bit brighter than the Pittsburgh Penguins' did last night -- with Neal Broten scoring twice and hoisting his Minnesota upstarts another step closer to the second Miracle on Ice of his lifetime.
Broten helped lead the U.S. Olympians past the hated Soviets and on to a gold medal at Lake Placid in 1980. Last night, by scoring and swarming and storming everywhere on the ice, Broten helped his mates to a 5-4 triumph.
"That [Olympic] run was only about seven games over a two-week period; this one has been a month and a half," Broten said of the North Stars' ouster of the NHL's
two top teams and defending champion Edmonton to reach the finals. "It's a little bit the same, where we [Olympians] were very much an underdog team and we were beating teams that were better than us. But this is a totally different story here."
It is an intriguing one nonetheless. The North Stars, who have been living on their power play, survived on 7-for-8 penalty killing. They got saves from goalie Jon Casey when nervous knees were knocking.
The North Stars simply had more on a night when, at times, the skating chaos was interrupted by hockey only at rare moments. The teams traded short-handed goals. The goalies traded astonishing saves. There were more giveaways than a week of "Wheel of Fortune" episodes.
The North Stars can win the Cup without having to win again here.
And they have won seven straight at home.
Do you believe in miracles?