Last Saturday the Stars came to Reunion Arena in their best duds, such as they are for superstitious hockey players. Everybody loves distinctive raiments, especially lucky playoff ones. Third-string goaltender Marty Turco wore a faux silk burnt-orange, brown and white shirt with collar points the length of a beagle's ears. It was a gift from former teammate Brent Severyn, who had worn it before Dallas's victories in the final two games of the 1999 Western Conference finals. (Severyn had dropped off the shirt at Reunion Arena while on assignment for a local TV station.) For the second straight game, right wing Mike Keane trotted out his scarlet sport coat, size 42 ugly, that he had first worn in '93 when he played for the Cup-winning Montreal Canadiens. The fiery talisman had been to Keane what Kate Smith's God Bless America had been to the Flyers, only with a better record: Before Game 6, Keane claimed his teams' playoff mark was 13-0 when he wore that coat, including 12 wins in overtime.
New Jersey's players were unimpressed by the emotion or the apparent switch in momentum. Scarlet jacket? Frankly, they didn't give a damn. The Devils had been stunned by the Game 5 loss—"It was tough to lose after almost six full periods, but we kept telling each other that we could've won all five games [in the series]," Daneyko said last Friday—but they channeled their shock into the single most brutally physical period of the 2000 postseason, a period that lacked only a steel enclosure to be a Texas death match. Twice the trainers had to be summoned to the ice, the doctors and a stretcher only once.
Dallas defenseman Darryl Sydor was the first casualty, severely spraining his left ankle when he missed a check on New Jersey forward Scott Gomez near the boards and landed awkwardly. He limped off, luckier than Devils winger Petr Sykora nine minutes later. Sykora, who was knocked off balance by a stick to the ribs from Stars defenseman Sylvain C�t�, was then crushed by defenseman Derian Hatcher, who delivered a blow to Sykora's head. Sykora landed on his back like roadkill. The hit was deemed legal, his CAT scan was normal—no autopsy, no foul. Sykora watched the rest of the game from a bed at Baylor University Medical Center.
If the score was even at one body each, the advantage had swung to New Jersey. While Robinson could muddle through by throwing Mogilny on the No. 1 line with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias and by juggling his other combinations, Hitchcock was compelled to give more minutes to each of his five remaining defensemen and rely more heavily on veterans Cote and Dave Manson, who usually are his third pair. The loss of Sydor would prove significant, a cruel blow for the Stars to suffer after he played only 95 seconds—less air time than ABC gave Brodeur's telegenic wife, M�lanie.
M�lanie summed up the drama perfectly, alternately hiding behind a towel when Dallas had a scoring chance and cheering wildly when fortune turned the Devils' way. In her Devils Stetson she got to be more of an ABC regular than Regis. The network knew a good thing. According to M�lanie, it offered the Reunion Arena fans in the row in front of her hats and other gimcracks for not leaping to their feet and ruining reaction shots of M�lanie. AFTRA beckons.
Even as compelling a show as this must close. In the second overtime, with the overburdened C�t� playing his 38th shift, Elias whipped a cross-ice, backhanded pass from the boards that beat C�t� and found Arnott. Arnott had committed a ludicrous cross-checking penalty to the throat of Dallas wing Blake Sloan near the end of the first overtime. Until that point referees Terry Gregson and Bill McCreary seemed inclined to let anything short of manslaughter go unpunished. Arnott made amends by flicking the puck into the open corner of the net for the Cup-winning goal.
New Jersey's dressing-room celebration was tinged with the bittersweet sense of a time passing. The Stanley Cup, containing light beer, was passed from lip to lip, and a cell phone was passed from ear to ear so the Devils could share their joy with Sykora, who would leave the hospital the next day. As befits the last old-fashioned team, the tableau was one of inclusion, embracing not only the players' families but also an absent and soon-to-be-former owner and the brilliant general manager who made the late-season switch to Robinson. Lamoriello, who had an equity interest in the Devils and might walk away with $15 million from the sale, said he would discuss his future with New Jersey at a later date. Last Saturday night he walked down a corridor in an aging hockey arena. Domestic champagne was being consumed on the other side of the door. Lamoriello was drinking RC Cola.