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Austin Murphy
June 05, 1989
Al MacInnis and his sizzling slap shot led the Calgary Flames to victory over the Canadiens and to their first Stanley Cup
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June 05, 1989

Montreal Goes Up In Flames

Al MacInnis and his sizzling slap shot led the Calgary Flames to victory over the Canadiens and to their first Stanley Cup

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Unsolicited, Vernon told a reporter that MacInnis "was ready for the role of a captaincy." Which is well and good, because current cocaptains Jim Peplinski and Lanny McDonald were both scratched at different times in the finals, McDonald for Games 3, 4 and 5 and Peplinski for Game 6.

In a move that would later make him look like a great guy and a genius, coach Terry Crisp put the 36-year-old McDonald in the lineup for Game 6. Going to the Forum, McDonald was reminded by his cabbie that the Canadiens were perfect at home when the Cup was on the line. Replied the Flames' imperturbable right wing, "I guess that means the odds are in our favor."

Two minutes into the second period, with the score 1-1, McDonald was busted by referee Denis Morel for holding. Having served his two-minute debt, McDonald exited the box just in time to join Hakan Loob and Joe Nieuwendyk on a three-on-two break. Nieuwendyk threaded a sweet pass to McDonald, who shot high to Roy's glove side for his first goal in the postseason. McDonald was hugged by so many of his mates, and with such vigor, that one feared for his health.

When Gilmour made it 3-1 with nine minutes to play, one half-expected the Forum's public address announcer, Claude Mouton, to call an emergency meeting of the Habs' ghosts of Stanley Cups past. And when the Canadiens' low-scoring defenseman Rick Green scored less than a minute later on a distant slap shot, it seemed like the work of ectoplasm.

But Gilmour's empty-net goal with 1:03 left removed all doubt about the outcome, and the fans in the Forum responded with class. As a team other than their own promenaded the Cup around the Forum ice for the first time in 65 years, the fans stood and applauded. When McDonald was handed the trophy, they roared. They knew that for him, the Cup had become a kind of professional grail: He had never held it aloft in his 16 years in the league.

Now it's the Habs that look suspect. They have won just one Cup in the last ten years, and an inspection of their roster suggests that they could use a Rembrandt or two to supplement a generous supply of house-painters. The forwards on whom they rely to score disappeared in the Stanley Cup finals: Shayne Corson, Mike McPhee, Stéphane Richer and Mats Naslund struck for 103 goals during the regular season but could muster only three against Calgary.

The Flames, conversely, have the look of a dynasty waiting to be born. Their prospects were raised by the news that Soviet star Sergei Makarov, thought by some to be the world's best rightwinger, has been given permission to play in the NHL. Calgary owns the right to sign Makarov.

Whether or not the Flames repeat, this was almost certainly McDonald's last hurrah. He went out with flair. In a postgame scene that warmed the hearts of the most hard-boiled cynics, McDonald and his wife, Ardell, who was sobbing uncontrollably, flew into one another's arms for a lengthy embrace.

McDonald also spent a lot of time holding the Cup. In the locker room after the game, Hunter stood on the platform with the professional photographers, his prodigious proboscis pressed sideways against his own modest camera, shouting, "O.K., Lanny, one more time, give it a big kiss! Great! Got it!"

For a bunch of guys who, it had been thought, would "find a way to screw it up," the Flames seemed to know exactly how to behave with the Stanley Cup. Sipping a Coke and looking on as his teammates sprayed one another with a different kind of bubbly, left wing Colin Patterson spoke for all the Flames when he said he "could get used to this." That's exactly what 20 other NHL teams are afraid of.

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