Once Game 4 got under way, it belonged to New Jersey goalie Sean Burke. Burke had won the overtime Game 2 for the Devils with a Ken Dryden-like performance, denying the Bruins repeatedly. "We had some absolutely prime goal-scoring chances," said Boston defenseman Ray Bourque after the Bruins' 3-2 loss. Rookie Doug Brown scored the game-winning goal almost 18 minutes into OT.
Burke's boffo effort precipitated a fresh flood of Dryden comparisons. As was Dryden, Burke is a tall, hardworking goalie. He hails from Toronto, Dry-den's hometown. Now here was a new parallel: In his rookie season of 1971, Dryden had been poison for Boston. Hockey historians recalled his stonewalling of the heavily favored Bruins in Game 7 of the Cup quarterfinals. After Dryden made still another save on Phil Esposito, Espo shouted, "You thieving giraffe!"
In Game 3, Burke robbed Boston of goal after goal through the first 20 minutes. Then the Bruins, capitalizing on the Devils' sluggish defense and lax back-checking, beat him with a passion, scoring three times in 73 seconds. The onslaught came after Koharski made the call that would send Schoenfeld over the edge.
And a strange call it was. Koharski correctly nabbed Kirk Muller of New Jersey for holding, and then Pat Verbeek of the Devils and Keith Crowder of Boston squared off. At first Crowder "turtled," refusing to fight. Verbeek backed off. Then Crowder came up swinging. Verbeek followed suit and inexplicably got the extra two minutes, after which Boston quickly put the game away. All three scores were set up by Bourque, who was also a leading reason that the Bruins ousted Montreal in five games in the previous round. Another was an aging goaltender named Rejean Lemelin, a Calgary Flames reject who is as consistent and unflappable as a gargoyle.
Boston signed Lemelin last August as a free agent. One thing Bob Johnson, Lemelin's coach in Calgary, didn't like about Lemelin was his synthetic foam leg pads, which are 50% lighter than the traditional leather pads. Another was his age; he's now 33. "The pads have added two years to my career," says Lemelin. But they were so—so newfangled. "Leg speed has always been my strength," says Lemelin. "So the book on me was, try to beat him up top. With the pads, I have the confidence in my leg speed to delay. I don't commit until the shooter does."
By never flopping, Lemelin has taken the top shelf away from opponents. Indeed, throughout these playoffs, in which his goals-against average after Sunday's game was a minuscule 2.34, the book on Lemelin has been: Cross your fingers. He could not be blamed for any of the Devils' three goals in Game 4.
"It was tough for the team that fell behind," said Middleton. "They were pulling us down late in the game there, but he [McInnis] put his whistle away."
"The blame lies with the [regular] officials," said Sinden, whose only choice, once the word came from Wirtz, was to play or forfeit. "Nothing, nothing should get in the way of their working a game."
"This game was a cross between football and Irish rugby," said Boston coach Terry O'Reilly. "It's a shame we have to suffer for a problem created by the New Jersey coaching staff and exaggerated by the officials."
The fallout from the Devils' challenge to the league began immediately. On Monday, Newell had declared that unless the league upheld the suspension, the officials would refuse to work the balance of the playoffs, starting with the Edmonton Oilers- Detroit Red Wings game that night. Later Monday, the NHL rescinded Schoenfeld's suspension pending a hearing in Boston before Game 5 Tuesday night. The officials then agreed to work the Edmonton- Detroit game.