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The Stars Shine Again
Jon Scher
May 04, 1992
Working its familiar playoff magic, Minnesota pushed favored Detroit to the brink of elimination
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May 04, 1992

The Stars Shine Again

Working its familiar playoff magic, Minnesota pushed favored Detroit to the brink of elimination

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Cheveldae, who played in 72 of 80 regular-season games, was benched when he failed to stop a routine shot by Brian Bellows that put Minnesota ahead 4-2 eight minutes into the second period. "That's a stop you have to have in the playoffs," said Detroit coach Bryan Murray afterward. "You can't win if you don't get that stop. I had to make a change."

This is how desperate things were for the Red Wings: Murray turned to Vincent Riendeau, who had been in goal for the St. Louis Blues when they fell to Minnesota in last year's division finals. Riendeau bore most of the blame for the upset and was traded to Detroit last October. Injured for most of the regular season, Riendeau saw action in only two games for Detroit. But he was hardly tested in Game 3 by the North Stars, who became conservative and allowed the Wings to tie the game 4-4 and send it to overtime.

One minute and 15 seconds into the extra period, Detroit defenseman Yves Racine silenced the crowd by firing a slap shot past a screened Casey to win the game. The Wings rushed out to mob Racine, who had scored only two goals all season. "I was scared," he said. "I had forgotten how to celebrate." The relief in the Detroit dressing room was palpable.

Gainey was ready to make the next move in this chess match. In the first three games the North Stars—as they had done to the opposition in last year's playoffs—provoked the Detroit players into taking unnecessary penalties. If a Red Wing took a swing, the North Stars would then turn the other cheek. The strategy had helped neutralize Detroit's aggressive forward Bob Probert, who wasn't quite sure what to do when, in Game 3, Minnesota defenseman Mark Tinordi glared at Probert after colliding with him along the boards and shouted, "Come on, hit me." Probert caressed Tinordi's face with his glove and was called for roughing.

However, before Game 4 last Friday, Gainey decided that the Stars needed to get tougher. He didn't take the goons off the shelf ( Shane Churla remained scratched from the lineup, and Basil McRac couldn't play because of a broken right leg suffered before the playoffs), but his regulars did take off their gloves. Little more than three minutes into the game, North Star defenseman Jim Johnson grabbed Fedorov near the Minnesota net, pushed him over Casey and onto the ice, then jumped on top of Fedorov and began punching away. The ensuing brawl included everyone on the ice except Riendeau, who was making his first start of the playoffs. It ended with Murray shouting at Gainey across the Plexiglas that separates the benches, and the North Stars down a man. Forward Ray Sheppard promptly scored a power-play goal to put Detroit in front 1-0, and by the end of the first period the Wings held a 3-1 lead.

The Stars, though, chipped away until Bellows batted his own rebound past Riendeau to tie the score at 4-4 late in the second period. Twelve minutes into the third. Minnesota center Todd Elik tipped the game-winner past Cheveldae, who had relieved Riendeau at the start of the period. The Red Wings hit the post a couple of times down the stretch, but Casey shut the door, blocking flurry after flurry.

"Jon's been unbelievable," said Minnesota forward Mike Modano. "All the pressure is on his shoulders, and he's doing just what he did last year."

"Money players," said North Star owner Norm Green. "They know when to crank it up. Bellows, Broten, Casey—they're veterans. They know."

Green could hardly conceal his glee. The North Star franchise, which was dying when he bought it in the summer of 1990, was revived by last year's springtime success. Attendance nearly doubled this season, to more than 13,000 per game, and Friday's game drew an SRO crowd of 15,434. To top it off, Green got another bit of good news last week. "Did you hear?" he barked into a portable telephone while watching the Stars practice from the stands. "We just signed a Jewish goalie named Levy!" That would be Jeff Levy, late of the University of New Hampshire. One thing, Norm: You may be Jewish, but Levy isn't.

Although Gainey won't make excuses for Minnesota's poor regular-season record, Green, a Canadian real estate magnate and former minority owner of the Calgary Flames, has no such reservations. He points to a rash of injuries that exposed the team's lack of depth. The main reason that Minnesota is thin is that a number of its top prospects were confiscated by the expansion San Jose Sharks as part of a complicated agreement between the Sharks and the North Stars. George and Gordon Gund, the former owners of the North Stars, had schemed to move the North Stars to San Jose, but the Gunds eventually settled for an expansion team stocked with Minnesota prospects. "We're depleted," says Green, a shameless booster who walks the stands gladhanding fans.

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