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DYNASTY UNDONE
Austin Murphy
April 24, 1989
In a week marked by tragedy and triumph, Wayne Gretzky's heroics in the Stanley Cup playoffs stood out as Los Angeles beat Edmonton
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April 24, 1989

Dynasty Undone

In a week marked by tragedy and triumph, Wayne Gretzky's heroics in the Stanley Cup playoffs stood out as Los Angeles beat Edmonton

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Perhaps to make amends, referee Andy Van Hellemond—who has been called Van Solomon for his creative adjudications—gave Edmonton's Craig Muni a holding penalty mere seconds after the nongoal. On the ensuing five-on-three, Gretzky easily fed Nicholls for the game-winner.

The Oilers, not surprisingly, did not go gentle into that good off-season. Late in the final period, to stop play and get a breather, Lowe gambled and knocked his own net off its moorings. He was called for delay of game, and the Kings' Dale DeGray pumped in an insurance goal while Lowe looked helplessly on. For what seemed like a long time after that goal, Lowe sat on the bench, staring blankly ahead. Fuhr, meanwhile, flung his stick at the sideboards, furious that Van Hellemond had not called Taylor for interfering with him.

After he had showered, Messier's route to the bus took him past the Kings' dressing room. He did not poke his head in to say hello.

"I saw those guys every day, and yet we didn't speak," said Gretzky. "That's not what life is supposed to be about. You're supposed to be able to talk to your best friends. Those two, Kevin and Mark, are the ones I feel most sorry for. They are champions."

Correction: were champions. The Great One helped see to that.

The Kings' opponent in the Smythe Division final is that other Alberta team, the Calgary Flames, who advanced after winning a seventh-game overtime heartstopper 4-3 over the plucky Vancouver Canucks. One waggish Vancouver columnist had predicted that the Canucks would be ousted from the best-of-seven series in three games, but it took heroic goaltending by Calgary's Mike Vernon to keep the supposedly mighty Flames from being snuffed out.

Calgary went into the series with the NHL's best regular-season record, 54-17-9—43 points and 103 goals better than Vancouver. The Canucks hadn't made the playoffs the two previous seasons, and they had won only three playoff series in their history, all in 1981-82, when they lost to the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup finals. But they kept coming at the Flames, winning at home on Thursday night 6-3 to force a seventh game.

And they would have won that one but for Vernon, who turned away 11 shots in OT before center Joel Otto scored the series-winner at 19:21. Three of those shots not only could have made losers of Calgary, they should have. In order, Vernon kicked out his left skate to just get a toe on a shot by Petri Skriko at 5:15, stopped a breakaway at 14:30 when he gloved Stan Smyl's slap shot to the lower right corner, and snared Tony Tanti's blast from 35 feet with a flick of his glove at 15:24.

Otto's winning goal wasn't a very comely one. "Who'd have believed that one would go in?" he said. He had stormed the net to create a little havoc when a centering pass from Jim Peplinski grazed off his skate past Canuck goalie Kirk McLean. Of fellow hero Vernon he said, "Vernie, he saves us. He was pulling pucks out of his ear all night."

The game was redemption of sorts for Vernon, who could have used a flak jacket to handle the strafing he received from Calgary fans and hockey writers when the Flames were chased from the divisional playoffs by provincial rival Edmonton last season and by Winnipeg the year before. "I worked hard all season, and it comes down to one period like that," said Vernon. "I thought to myself, I just can't let it end here. I just seemed to dig down and go to the well once more."

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