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On This Date in Sports March 21, 1991: Tugnutt Under Fire

In collaboration with the sportsecyclopedia.com

Ron Tugnutt of the Quebec Nordiques does his best to get his team a win, as he makes an NHL modern-day record 70 saves as his team forges a 3-3 tie with the Boston Bruins at the Boston Garden. Ray Borque of the Bruins set a record among defensemen with 19 saves, as the Bruins were frustrated to leave the ice with a tie against the last-place Nordiques. 

It was a bleak period for the Quebec Nordiques, as they were missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season while posting the worst record in the NHL for the second straight season. The Nordiques had talented forwards, with Joe Sakic in his second season and Mats Sundin in his first year in the NHL. In addition, they had Hall of Famer Guy LaFleur playing in his final season after staging a stunning comeback in 1988. However, the young players had not found their footing in the NHL, while the Nordiques had one of the league's worst defenses. 

Entering a Thursday night game in Boston, the Nordiques were at the bottom of the NHL standings at 14-48-13 for first-year coach Dave Chambers. The Bruins were the top team in the Wales Conference at 41-23-11. The Bruins controlled the ice but trailed 1-0 at the end of the first period, as Ron Tugnutt made 17 saves. The lone goal was scored by defenseman Randy Velischek who beat Reggie Lemelin at 12:54.

The Nordiques drafted Ron Tugnutt in the fourth round of the 1987 NHL Draft. He quickly made it to the NHL and became the starting goalie for Quebec as they attempted to build a winning franchise. A process that was hurt as English-speaking Canadians were often reluctant to play in Quebec City, which was also the NHL's northernmost franchise. Despite the team's struggles, Tugnutt made the best of a bad situation. 

The Bruins quickly tied the game in the second period when Ken Hodge scored 15 seconds after the first faceoff. However, Quebec again took the lead on a goal by Mark Vermette, as Ron Tugnutt made 18 saves on 19 shots in the middle period. In the third period, the Bruins tied the game on a goal by Nevin Markwart at 1:59. However, the Nordiques again took the lead with a goal by Alexei Gusarov. Ray Bourque tied the game again with 9:24 left, as Tugnutt stood between the Bruins and victory. 

The Bruins dominated the remainder of regulation as Ron Tugnutt made 23 saves in the third period and 12 saves in overtime to preserve the 3-3 tie. When the dust settled, the Bruins were left shaking their head, as Ron Tugnutt had a game for the ages, making 70 saves on 73 shots. 

The Nordiques finished the season with a record of 16-50-14 and had the first pick in the draft. They chose Eric Lindros, who refused to play in Quebec. As the Nordiques struggled again in 1992, Lindros forced a trade. The trade with the Philadelphia Flyers would begin to help the Nordiques franchise around. Sadly for fans in Quebec, it was too late as they moved to Denver and won the Stanley Cup in their first season as the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.