Lemieux's goal bedeviling for Flyers

Once before, veteran sank Philadelphia's hopes for Stanley Cup championship

Hockey

May 26, 2000|By Adrian Wojnarowski | Adrian Wojnarowski,THE RECORD OF HACKENSACK, N.J.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Ken Daneyko was on the far end of the bench, the worst angle to make sense out of the delirious New Jersey Devils hugging over the flashing of the red light. There had been a wild scramble, the puck pushed past the Philadelphia Flyers' Brian Boucher, and pandemonium had broken loose inside Continental Arena.

He turned to Chris Terreri and screamed to him, "Who scored?" over the deafening din of Game 6.

"Claude," Terreri barked back, and as the Devils raised sticks to the sky, the arena swayed, and the stunned Flyers swallowed hard, Daneyko just laughed out loud.

"Who else?"

Who else.

It had to be Claude Lemieux. It had to be him on the rebound shot with 8:34 left in Game 6, had to be him with the goal to break the hearts of these Flyers, sending the series back to Philadelphia for a Game 7 tonight. The Devils beat the Flyers, 2-1, with the history book recording Alexander Mogilny's goal as the game-winner a little later in the third period.

In this instance, the statistics lie.

Lemieux won this game with his 80th career playoff goal, won it with the fury and fearlessness he has used to deliver a long, illustrious Stanley Cup playoff life of these nights. This was the deepest, darkest nightmare for these Flyers, rising right out of Game 5 of the 1995 conference finals.

Then, Lemieux scored on an unforgettable shot with 45 seconds left in that game to lift the Devils to a victory over the Flyers, stealing a 3-2 series lead so they could return home to close out the conference championship in Game 6.

"I just loved the moment," Lemieux said.

At 35 years old, he doesn't just love it. He lives for it. Before the start of this series, the Flyers were requested to reflect back on the 1995 loss to the Devils, and even now, there's just one, raw nerve still exposed to these players.

What did they remember? Please. What they remember is what they'll never, ever forget. Without a hint of hesitation, Philadelphia's John LeClair said, "Claude Lemieux scoring from the blue line."

When this series is over, it could be Lemieux's Game 6 rebound shot responsible for sending the Flyers to another insufferable summer. The Flyers are on the brink of a historic collapse. They're dangling from fingertips off the edge of a building, looking up to the ledge to see Lemieux's toothless, sneering smile as they get ready to free-fall out of the conference finals.

"I'm certainly not going to wait for another guy," Lemieux said. "I'm going to take charge."

This night was why Lou Lamoriello brought him back to the Devils, why he couldn't resist the man with three championship rings and the eighth-most playoff goals.

"The Reggie Jackson of May and June," Daneyko said.

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