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Greatest Moments

Lemieux signature goal in Game 2 of 1991 Final was career highlight

Spectacular individual effort that helped Penguins win Cup in running for Greatest NHL Moment

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

PITTSBURGH -- Mario Lemieux used to yell a certain way when he wanted the puck, depending on how fast he wanted it. If you had time to pass, he would draw out the first syllable and say, "Yee-ip." If you didn't, he wouldn't. He'd say, "Yip."

"That meant, 'Get me the puck right away. It doesn't have to be on my tape,'" former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Phil Bourque said.

In the second period of Game 2 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final, with the Penguins leading the Minnesota North Stars 2-1 at Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Bourque came back in the defensive zone and grabbed a rebound at the right hash marks. He pulled up and spun 180 degrees to avoid an opponent.

"Yip," Lemieux yelled.

Bourque sent the puck from left to right across the zone as fast as he could.

Video: 1991: Mario Lemieux splits D for signature Final goal

"I just threw it up in the same area code," Bourque said. "I knew if it was within four or five feet, he probably, with his reach, was going to get it. It was probably four feet behind him. He corralled it.

"I was making my way to the bench, and I witnessed maybe one of the greatest goals in NHL history."

It became the signature goal of Lemieux's magnificent career, and it is on the ballot for Greatest NHL Moment.

As part of the NHL's Centennial celebration, a blue-ribbon panel of broadcasters from NBC Sports Group, NHL Network, Sportsnet and TVA selected 64 moments on which fans could vote in a bracket-style tournament with four rounds, semifinals and a final.

In Round 1, Lemieux's goal defeated the Montreal Canadiens' 10 consecutive overtime wins in the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In Round 2, it faces Wayne Gretzky's 50 goals in 39 games for the Edmonton Oilers in 1981. Round 2 voting began Oct. 25 and runs through Tuesday.


[RELATED: Gretzky, Lemieux in NHL's Greatest Moment clash | Vote for NHL's Greatest Moment ] 


The Greatest NHL Moment will be announced Dec. 16 at the Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic between the Canadiens and Ottawa Senators at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa.

After corralling the pass from Bourque, Lemieux sped up ice. When he reached the Minnesota blue line, it was 1-on-2.

It didn't matter.

In a split second, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound center pulled the puck between the feet of defenseman Shawn Chambers -- forehand, backhand, forehand -- leaving Chambers lunging, stumbling and falling in his wake.

Lemieux darted between Chambers and partner Neil Wilkinson.

Now it was 1-on-0.

"I saw him build up a lot of speed through the neutral zone," Bourque said, "and I saw this ridiculously long, 757 wingspan go from outside to inside to outside."

As Bourque got to the bench, he saw goaltender Jon Casey attempt a poke check.

"You knew," Bourque said with a laugh. "You go for the poke check on Mario, you knew he was going to just string you out and embarrass you."

Casey lunged to his left, Lemieux's right. Lemieux went the other way and stickhandled around Casey's right pad -- forehand, backhand -- sliding the puck across the goal line as he slid into Casey and the left post.

Video: Mario Lemieux scored 100 points 10 different times

"Oh, my heavens!" legendary broadcaster Bob Cole said on CBC. "What a goal! What a move! Lemieux! Oh, baby!"

The Penguins won the game 4-1. They won the best-of-7 series 4-2 and the first of back-to-back championships. Lemieux, who led the NHL with 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 23 games, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs for the first of two straight times.

"Throw the puck in his area, and it didn't matter if it was 3 feet off the ice or 3 feet behind him," Bourque said. "You knew he would get it and make something special happen."

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