Work in Sports
Arnott's goal stuff legends are made of
Posted: Sunday June 11, 2000 02:51 PM
By David Vecsey, CNNSI.com
DALLAS -- They'll talk about the winning goal forever. And why shouldn't they? Overtime goals to win Stanley Cups are something special, something to be cherished.
And when history looks back on Jason Arnott's goal to win the first National Hockey League championship of the new millennium, his name will be uttered with the likes of Bill Barilko, Bobby Orr and, of course, Brett Hull.
But, oh, how differently things would have been for Arnott if the Dallas Stars had scored eight minutes earlier while he sat in the penalty box for a cross-check so ill-timed that Arnott's name would have been instead linked with the likes of Don Cherry, Harold Snepsts, Marty McSorley and others whose late blunders led to elimination in the finals.
"I didn't want to be the guy that lost it for us," said Arnott, whose two minutes in the box spanned the intermission between the first and second overtimes. And if those two minutes seemed long, imagine the 15 he spent in the locker room with his exhausted teammates.
"I didn't want my teammates to jump on me," Arnott said. "I took it upon myself, I kinda said, 'It was a bad penalty. Kill it off for me boys and we'll see what happens after that.'"
Of course, the Devils were not facing elimination. And of course Dallas did not score on the two-minute power play.
The Devils' penalty killing unit is as crack as they come, allowing a record-low five power play goals over the course of the playoffs -- only one more than that unit scored while playing short-handed. And while Arnott's goal goes down as the Cup-winner, let us not forget that the Devils' first goal of the night -- scored long before at 5:18 of the second period -- came while short-handed, courtesy of Scott Niedermayer.
Those goals make a big difference in a series that plays 193 of the final 194 minutes with a tie score. So can bad penalties in overtime.
"It was frustrating when there's so much on the line," Arnott said. "[The referees were] letting things go all game. I could see if it were the second or third period. But in overtime?"
Actually, Arnott's infraction was too heinous not to be called, even in the whistle-swallowing mentality of an overtime playoff game. After colliding with Blake Sloan and falling to the ice together, Arnott jammed the shaft of his stick across Sloan's neck.
An ugly penalty anytime, but even worse when the victim already is wearing a football style helmet to protect the two metal plates in the jaw he broke in February.
"It wasn't a good penalty," said Devils coach Larry Robinson, capping a wonderful two weeks of tremendous understatements, "but I think he made up for it.
"It's easy for us to say, 'You gotta keep calm,' but you could cut the tension with a chainsaw out there."
Arnott said he and Patrik Elias were a little preoccupied with the condition of their linemate Petr Sykora, who was taken to the hospital after a crushing blow from Stars defenseman Derian Hatcher. Sykora lay motionless for a long time and was taken off on a stretcher. His CAT scans were negative, but he remained in the hospital overnight.
"We definitely said we gotta do this for our boy," Arnott said. "There's no question that goal is for him."
A rare gift indeed, an overtime goal to win the Cup. You might think not very, with three of them in the past five seasons. But in the 40 years before that, there were four -- all scored by luminaries: Bob Nystrom, Jacques Lemaire, Bobby Orr and Henri Richard.
And if you ask if any of them almost cost their team the game, history will merely shrug and say, "Who cares?"