Before Jason Arnott became a Stanley Cup hero for the New Jersey Devils, he feared he was going to be a goat.
With 1:17 remaining in the first overtime in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars, Arnott was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking Blake Sloan.
Although 17 years have passed since that game at Reunion Arena on June 10, 2000, Arnott remembers the feeling he had in the penalty box almost as well as scoring the goal 8:20 into the second overtime that gave the Devils a 2-1 victory and their second championship.
"It was pretty lonely sitting in there," Arnott said.
Video: Memories: Jason Arnott scores Cup-winning goal in 2OT
The Devils and Stars were in overtime for the second consecutive game. New Jersey already had missed one chance to close out the series when Mike Modano scored 6:21 into the third overtime to give the Stars a 1-0 win in Game 5 at Continental Airlines Arena two days earlier.
That was the Devils' seventh consecutive overtime loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs dating to 1995 and had them wondering what they had to do to finish off the Stars. Like the rest of the Devils, Arnott, who retired in 2013 after 18 seasons in the NHL, had hoped to win the Cup at home.
"It was a letdown, especially for me, because I had all of my family and friends in New Jersey," Arnott said. "But I remember it was such a hard-fought, tough series. Both teams were big. …. We were evenly matched and I still remember coming out of that series dreadfully exhausted and banged up and sore and glad it was over, glad we didn't have to go to Game 7."
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The Devils played most of Game 6 short one forward because Petr Sykora, who skated on the famed "A Line" with Patrik Elias and Arnott, was taken to the hospital after being injured on a hard hit from Stars defenseman Derian Hatcher 12:08 into the first period. New Jersey took a 1-0 lead on a goal from defenseman Scott Niedermayer 5:18 into the second period, but Mike Keane tied it for the Stars 1:09 later.
That was all the scoring through the end of regulation and the first overtime. Arnott recalled returning to the locker room for the intermission following the first overtime with 43 seconds remaining on his penalty and "nobody really saying anything to me."
"Taking the penalty in overtime was the worst feeling of my entire career at that point," he said. "It was pretty quiet in the dressing room between periods when I had to go back out [to begin the second overtime]. I crossed my fingers and was praying to God that the boys pulled it out for me. Obviously, after I got out it was rewarding."
Elias set up Arnott for the 15th Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal in NHL history. Although Elias' backhand feed out of the right corner often has been called a blind pass, Arnott said that was not the case.
Video: 2000 Cup Final, Gm6: NJ wins Cup on Arnott's 2OT goal
Arnott said he went to the far post thinking Elias might send the puck to him behind the net, but he could see that Elias spotted him as he was skating down the slot.
"It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime pass that he made, but he did turn around and see if I was there or not. It wasn't just a blind pass," Arnott said. "It ended up being a perfect pass, but that's kind of the way we read off of each other for the whole year. We had an instinct of where each other was, and that's what kind of made us successful."
Arnott one-timed the puck inside the left post before goaltender Ed Belfour could slide over, and then curled back and was mobbed by his teammates.
"I almost ran into the referee going around the [left] corner," Arnott said. "I had to dodge him and go around, and I just remember jumping up and down and throwing my gloves around and I couldn't really do much else. The guys were chasing me down and Scotty [Stevens] ended up grabbing a hold of me first, and then it was just mayhem after that."