On May 15, 1990 the longest game in Stanley Cup finals history was played at the old Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The host Bruins were playing in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers had won 4 of the last 6 Stanley Cup finals (1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988), but this was the first time being in the finals without the Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
This game has a special place in my heart even though the Bruins lost. I was 9 years old at the time, but I was already a die hard Bruins fan. Growing up in Vermont we were lucky because we had CBC as part of our cable package and were able to watch all of the games. I was too young to stay up and watch the games, especially on a school night. My mother’s best friend would tape the games for me on VHS tapes, and bring them into work for my mom to bring home, I would watch the games the next day. This was before the internet, so unless I picked up the newspaper I would not know the outcome of the game. For some reason this is one of the only games I remember from my childhood.
The Oilers were up 2-0 after two periods. Ray Bourque scored 3:43 into the third period to make it 2-1. Then Bourque scored again to tie up the game with 1:29 left in the game. Steve Springer from the LA Times described the goal the next day by writing:
“with a little over a minute and a half to play Neely, on the right side, fired a shot that was blocked by the skate of Steve Smith. The puck dribbled into the right corner where Neely was the first to reach it after out-skating Smith. From there, he rifled a pass through the slot to Bourque, coming up on the left side. As Ranford furiously turned to meet his newest threat, he lost his balance, tumbling to the ice. And as he did so, Bourque lofted a shot over him to tie the game.”
The crazy part of this game, which added to its lore, was they had a 25 minute delay due to a power outage at the Garden. The lights in the rafters went out. It is believed that a bank of lights had worn out to cause the power outage.
In overtime the two teams exchanged good scoring opportunities. Bruins Defenseman, Glen Wesley had probably the best opportunity to end the game. He took a backhand shot that went over the net with the Oilers’ goalie Bill Ranford down and out, leaving a wide open net. Fog even started to creep on to the ice as humidity rose in the old Garden because of the extra long late season game. It had taken 55:13 of overtime play for someone to finally score a goal. Petr Klima, who had been on the Oilers bench for 2-3 hours, finally got a shift and put the Bruins’ lights out for good in game 1. The game ended at 1:22am on May 16th, 1990, five hours and 32 minutes after the puck had dropped.
As a young Bruins fan this was heart breaking. The Bruins ended up winning game 3 in Edmonton, but lost the series in 5 games. In the History of the Boston Bruins DVD current Bruins GM, Don Sweeney, calls it “the biggest disappointment of his professional playing career.” It took another 21 years for me to see my beloved Bruins lift the Cup in 2011. Hopefully I do not have to wait that long again.