Avs beat Devils 3-1 to win Stanley Cup
Updated: Wednesday June 13, 2001 1:14 AM
By Chris Stevenson, SLAM! Sports
DENVER -- The wait was long for this moment, a wait that started when many of his teammates were still wearing diapers.
Bourque's 22-year quest for his moment ended Saturday night with the Avs' 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, denying the Devils their second-straight Stanley Cup and the mantle of dynasty.
After Avalanche captain Joe Sakic was handed the Cup by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman he immediately turned and handed it to Bourque.
The crowd exploded as Bourque raised the Cup and pumped it above his head before lowering it for a lingering kiss.
"I could hardly breathe the last 30 seconds of the game and it wasn't because I was tired," said Bourque. "It was just too much. I had tears in my eyes on the bench a couple of times. You just got to try and hold it. The last 10 seconds took a long time to wind down.
"What a feeling."
Alex Tanguay, who scored two goals in Game 7 and was one of those future Avalanche players in diapers when Bourque began his quest, said seeing Bourque heft the Cup was an emotional moment for everyone.
"I think winning it for Ray was a big deal for us because we truly believed he deserved it," he said. "He is a true Hall of Famer. I think seeing Ray being the first one, when Joe handed him the Cup, I think it put a tear in everybody's eye. I think everybody in the hockey world, too."
Bourque's long-awaited skate around the ice was the compelling story in a very uncompelling final as the team took turns dominating and then being dominated.
In the end, when it counted most, it was the Avalanche who held the upper hand in the final act and became the first team since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens to come back from a 3-2 series deficit to win the Cup.
The Avalanche won despite the absence of Peter Forsberg, perhaps the best two-way player in the league, who had his spleen removed a month ago.
They won because Sakic had a goal and an assist and dominated Devils defenseman Scott Stevens in their head-to-head matchup.
The won because Patrick Roy, winner of a record-setting third Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, gave up just one goal in the last two games.
The game turned on a 79-second span in the second period with Sakic in the middle of it.
He burst down the right wing just before the five-minute mark on a 2-on-1 and his low shot was stopped by Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, but the big, fat rebound went right into the slot and onto the stick of Tanguay, who buried it in the open net for his second goal of the game.
Then, with New Jersey's Sean O'Donnell off for highsticking, Sakic wound up with the puck near the top of the right wing circle. His faked shot froze Stevens and then, with a remarkable amount of craftiness, Sakic showed the best wrist shot in the game, firing the puck through Stevens' legs and over Brodeur's glove hand at 6:16.
Stevens is going to have nightmares of Sakic all summer. The Devils captain was also the man back on the 2-on-1 on which Tanguay scored and he was also knocked to the ice by Sakic with a strong shoulder check.
The Devils tried to press. They broke through with a power-play goal by Petr Sykora at 9:33 who got behind Bourque and took a nice head-man pass from Elias before putting the puck between Roy's pads.
After that, though, the Avs defense was tighter than a Lara Croft tank top.
The Avalanche held the edge in play in the first period and emerged from the opening 20 minutes with a well-deserved 1-0 lead.
They carried the puck to the Devils and used their cycling game to grind away in the New Jersey corners. Particularly effective was the Sakic line for Colorado, but it was Tanguay who put the Avs up 1-0 at the eight-minute mark. With Colorado's Dan Hinote picking Stevens, Tanguay skated out of the left wing corner, behind the Jersey net and then out front where he spun and lifted a shot over Brodeur's left shoulder.
The Devils generated little in the way of offence in the first period. Scott Gomez had a chance, but Roy did a quick up and down and turned him back.
Roy's best save came on Elias at the 13-minute mark when he extended his left leg and got his toe on Elias' shot and then smothered the rebound.
Sykora had a good chance when he broke over the Colorado line and while his shot beat Roy, it didn't beat the post with 1:40 to go in the first. "In our hearts and our minds, we were playing for Ray," said Avalanche coach Bob Hartley. "The entire community was pulling for Ray."