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Hockey

Marathon on ice

Stars sweep series, outlast Oilers 3-2 in triple OT

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Posted: Friday May 21, 1999 01:12 AM

  Starlight, Stars bright: Jamie Langenbrunner, Sergei Zubov (left) and Dave Reid celebrate the Stars' win over the Oilers in triple overtime. AP

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNN/SI) -- It wasn't quick but it was lethal. Joe Nieuwendyk finally ended a game that seemed like it would go on forever.

Nieuwendyk redirected a 60-foot slap shot by Sergei Zubov past Tommy Salo at 17:34 of the third overtime to give the Dallas Stars a 3-2 victory over Edmonton, kicking the Oilers out of the playoffs.

"It got to the point where I thought we were going to flip a coin to decide it. ... It was a four-game sweep but it felt like it was a seven-game series," Nieuwendyk said after his second goal of the game ended the five-hour, 20-minute marathon at 3:03 a.m. EDT Wednesday morning, concluding the longest game in the history of both franchises.

The Stars -- 14 of whom are over the age of 30 -- skated with the Oilers for three periods, then outplayed them for most of three more.

"We have an older team. That [game] could've killed some guys out there," Stars forward Mike Keane said. "My head is like a tomato."

The Oilers' loss in the Western Conference quarter-final series marked the first time since they entered the NHL in 1979 that they exited the postseason without a win. They hadn't been bounced in the first round in a decade.

"Salo was playing really well," Niewendyk said of the Oilers goalie who stopped 53 shots. "We knew it wasn't going to be a pretty goal to win it. I just went to the net. It hit my leg and went in the corner."

The game was a blue print of the series. Defying the Oilers' game plan to hit them until they wilted, the Stars rallied in the third period in each of the previous three games to put the Oilers away by one goal.

"I can't ask for more. We can't play any better. I couldn't be more proud of these guys," said Oilers coach Ron Low.

When asked about rumors he may be finished as coach of the team, he said: "All I know is if a team is an extension of the coach, I wouldn't mind coaching these guys for a while."

Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said: "We had to really push the envelope emotionally and physically [in the series]," adding it will make them stronger going into the second round.

He said the Oilers came out strong early in the overtime but "from about three quarters of the way through the first overtime we started to play well.

"When you get in a game like this, halfway through the second overtime the guys were numb."

Dallas finally got some life out of its power play. Ranked sixth in the regular season, the unit was 0-for-19 in the series until Nieuwendyk scored with the advantage late in the second.

Jamie Langenbrunner scored again with the man advantage at 11:05 of the third to send the game into overtime.

Ryan Smyth and Todd Marchant scored for the Oilers, who lost first-line center Doug Weight to a concussion five minutes into the game.

Ed Belfour had 37 saves for Dallas.

The win spoiled the return of Edmonton's favorite adopted son. Wayne Gretzky was a surprise guest to drop the ceremonial first puck.

It was the first time he'd been back in Skyreach Centre since retiring earlier this month. The sold-out crowd of 17,100 gave him a thunderous ovation and chanted "Gretzky! Gretzky!"

Players on both teams pounded their sticks on the ice in tribute. He stayed for two minutes, waved a few times then left the ice, not returning for an encore. Having to catch a plane, he left the building midway through the third overtime. Minutes later, the old Oilers playoff magic followed him out.

 
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The Stars and Oilers battled to the wee hours Wednesday morning before a Dallas goal wins the game and the series.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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