Records, the old saying goes, are made to be broken.
Not so fast.
The Montreal Canadiens' record of 10 straight overtime wins on its way to the 1993 Stanley Cup looks like it has plenty of staying power.
"You have to win 16 games to win the Stanley Cup and to win 10 of them in overtime is unheard of," said Vincent Damphousse, who started Montreal's impressive streak with an overtime goal in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals after the Quebec Nordiques had won the first two games of the series.
"It's almost impossible, when you think about it. First off, you have to get a tie in regulation time, that's hard enough, but 10 of them? It will be a very tough record to beat. I don't think it ever will be broken."
Damphousse, now with the San Jose Sharks, said the Canadiens didn't think much about the streak until after they'd won five games in overtime to approach the New York Islanders' record of six overtime victories in 1980.
"That's what makes a great team, thinking about and getting ready for the next game and forgetting the last game," said checking center Guy Carbonneau, the team captain. "It was never mentioned but when it got to be eight, then nine and then 10 ..."
"We didn't think a great deal about the statistics at the time, but in hindsight what are the chances you'd win that many in a row, let alone in overtime?" Carbonneau's linemate Ed Ronan said. "The level of competition being so great, you hope you can catch a great playoff run and that's what we did."
Hockey fans stayed up late during the 1993 postseason. Three other major playoff records were broken: 28 of the 85 games went to overtime; the Canadiens had 12 one-goal victories and they started a streak of 14-straight overtime wins that continued into 1998.
The Canadiens had a deep team, led by goaltender Patrick Roy, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Eric Desjardins headed a defense that included Mathieu Schneider, J.J. Daigneault, Patrice Brisebois, Sean Hill, Lyle Odelein, Donald Dufresne, Kevin Haller and Rob Ramage. Carbonneau, Damphousse, John LeClair, Kirk Muller and Benoit Brunet were among a cast of forwards that also included Ronan, Mike Keane, Stephan Lebeau, Denis Savard, Todd Ewen, Gilbert Dionne, Paul Di Pietro, Mario Roberge, Brian Bellows and Gary Leeman.
Andre Racicot was Roy's backup and did a great job in the regular season with a 17-5-1 record but he saw only 18 minutes action in the postseason.
Ironically, things started badly for the eventual champs as the Canadiens were beaten in Quebec City in Game 1 on Scott Young's overtime goal. Then Young had a pair in the Nordiques' 4-1 Game 2 win. Mats Sundin put Quebec ahead in the first period of Game 3 and Muller answered in the second period. Damphousse ended it at 10:30 of overtime with assists from Bellows and Desjardins.
"We had to win that game or it was over for us," Damphousse recalled. "I got a wraparound off the boards, spun off the defenseman, shot backhand through traffic in front of net and through Ron Hextall's leg. That was the start of the streak."
Brunet scored the winner early in the third period of Game 4, then Muller scored in overtime of Game 5 at Le Colisee. Back home, the Canadiens dusted off the favored Nordiques, 6-2.
Di Pietro gave the Canadiens a huge lift in the playoffs. In only his second season, the 5-foot-9 center had only four goals and 13 assists in 29 regular-season games but eight goals and five assists in 13 Playoff games. He had the first and last goal in the Stanley Cup-clinching Game 5 over the Kings.
"Di Pietro came out of nowhere. Gilbert Dionne came out of nowhere, Mathieu Schneider came into his own, Patrice Brisebois had played his first full season and Brian Bellows had a great playoffs," Carbonneau said. "Di Pietro had a chance to play in the playoffs and took advantage of it. I saw him two years ago in Europe. He was always a good skater and had a good knowledge of the game. On a big surface, he can be a better player.
"We had a bunch of guys that got better together over the 2 1/2 months of the playoffs. A lot of people came from out of nowhere. We had a good bunch of youngsters and smart veterans. There was a lot of trust built between the defense, the forwards and the goalies. Our coach, Jacques Demers, always said he wanted us to be a family and a family needed to trust each other. That was the approach we had in the playoffs. We stuck together. Patrick erased the mistakes we made up front and we grew and grew."
The players agree Demers, in his first year with the Canadiens after coaching three other NHL teams, provided an atmosphere in which they could thrive. He had replaced Pat Burns at the start of the season when management felt Burns' no-nonsense approach had lost effect. Ronan said much of Burns' system remained in place and Carbonneau played a big role in supervising adherence to his team-play systems.
"I think Jacques' strength was how he handled the players. He was a good communicator and we liked him," Ronan said. "The players wanted to play for him and that's important."
"Jacques was a very positive guy," Damphousse concurred. "He made sure everyone had a role on the team in the playoffs. Everyone accepted their role and that's what you need. Jacques was good at getting the best out of every player."