In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Dallas Stars win the Stanley Cup beat the Buffalo Sabres in six games in the Stanley Cup Finals. In the finale at Marine Midland Arena, the Stars win 2-1 in triple overtime on a controversial goal by Brett Hull, as the Sabres felt that Hull’s skate was in the goal crease and should have been disallowed. Joe Nieuwendyk would win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP with six game-winning goals.
In 1993, after 25 years in the twin cities, the Minnesota North Stars moved to the Lone Star State becoming the Dallas Stars. Led by Mike Modano, the Stars arrived in Dallas would a good young nucleus. After showing flashes in their first five seasons in Dallas, the Stars who lost in the Western Conference Finals in 1998 added one final piece for the 1998/99 season when they signed Brett Hull away from the St. Louis Blues. Coached by Ken Hitchcock, the Stars posted the best record in the NHL at 51-19-12.
In the playoffs, the Stars made quick work of the Edmonton Oilers winning in four straight games. It was the fourth straight year the Stars and Oilers met in the playoffs, with Dallas winning for the third straight season. The next round would be an emotionally trying series for Brett Hull, as he had to face his former team, the Stars would emerge victorious in six games, winning the finale in overtime on a goal by Mike Modano. In the Western Conference Finals, the Stars needed seven games to slip past the Colorado Avalanche as they won 4-1 in the final two games.
Coached by Lindy Ruff, the Buffalo Sabres entered the playoffs as the seventh seed in the East at 37-28-17. Once again, they were carried by Goalie Dominik Hasek as he won the Vezina for the fifth time in six years, including three straight. While the West held to form with the favorites winning all the way to the Conference Finals, the East becomes topsy-turvy, with the Sabres sweeping the second-seeded Ottawa Senators in the first round. That was followed by a six-game win over the Boston Bruins. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Buffalo faced the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, winning in five games to make the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in team history.
The matchup of the Dallas Stars and Buffalo Sabres was unique, in that it was just the third time that two teams that have never won the Stanley Cup met in the finals. All three of those occasions happened to be in the 1990s. Since 1999, it has occurred just once, in 2007. It was like the only Stanley Cup Final between 1995-2003 not to have involved either the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, or Colorado Avalanche. The series would be dominated by goalies Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek, former teammates who played together with the 1992 Blackhawks who lost in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, was a battle of goalies as Brett Hull’s first-period power play goal was the only tally for the first two periods at Reunion Arena. With Hasek keeping Buffalo in the game, the Sabres got the equalizer on a goal by Stu Barnes at 8:33 of the third period. Wayne Primeau scored five minutes later to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead. Looking to steal on in Dallas, the Sabres were stunned late as Jere Lehtinen tied the game with 49 seconds left. Buffalo would overcome the late goal and won the game in overtime on a goal by Jason Wooley as Hasek made 35 saves in a solid 3-2 win. Looking to win again on Dallas ice, the Sabres broke a scoreless tie on a second-period goal by Michael Pecca in the middle of the second period. However, the Stars finally solved Hasek late in the second as Jamie Langenbrunner scored just before intermission. In the third period, the Stars briefly took the lead on a goal by Craig Ludwig. Alexei Zhitnik answered just over a minute later. With the score tied 2-2 in the late stages of Game 2, it was Hull who saved the Stars from another overtime showdown as he scored the game-winner with just under three minutes left. Derian Hatcher would add an empty net goal as the Stars won the game 4-2.
As the series shuffled its way to Buffalo, scoring remained at a premium as the game again nearly went 30 minutes without a goal before Stu Barnes gave the Stabres a 1-0 lead. Joe Nieuwendyk would answer and later scored in the third as the Stars regained control of the series with a 2-1 win. Now needing a win in Game 4, the Sabres and Stars exchanged scores as Geoff Sanderson scored for Buffalo while Lehtinen scored for Dallas. Dixon Ward later scored for the Sabres in the second period as the Sabres won the game 2-1, with Dominik Hasek making 30 saves.
Low scoring games would be the story of the series as neither team scored in the first period of Game 5 in Dallas. In the second period, Darryl Sydor gave the Stars the lead with a power-play goal. That goal stood as the game’s lone tally until Pat Verbeek gave the Stars some room to breathe with under five minutes left. They would go on to win the game 2-0, as Eddie Belfour stopped 23 shots in a 2-0 shutout win.
With the Stanley Cup within their grasp, the Stars got a first-period goal from Jere Lehtinen, while Stu Barnes scored for Buffalo in the second. From there it was 60 minutes of nothing as the game went into overtime tied 1-1 as neither Eddie Belfour nor Dominik Hasek was willing to let anything go by. Deep into the night the game went past midnight as no teams were able to score in the first or second overtime, as both goalies were brilliant with Hasek making 48 stops while Belfour blocked 53 shots on goal. Finally, with 5:09 left in triple overtime, the game, and the series came to an end when Brett Hull put in a rebound to give the Stars their first Stanley Cup Championship with a 2-1 win.
The Stars celebrated, while the Sabres were incensed as replays clearly showed that Hull had his skate in the goal crease when he scored the game winner. At that time, such goals were disallowed, as the NHL emphasized waving off goals in which players were in the crease whether or not it had any impact on the goalie. A rule that would be eliminated following the season.