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Ron Tugnutt made 70 saves in game with Nordiques

Quebec goalie faced 73 shots in 3-3 tie against Bruins on March 21, 1991

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

Ron Tugnutt had every right to be tired after the Quebec Nordiques' game against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden on March 21, 1991.

For nearly three hours, Tugnutt put on perhaps the greatest goaltending performance in NHL history. The Bruins kept shooting, finishing the night with 73 shots on goal. Tugnutt used his stick, gloves, pad, and assorted parts of his body to keep all but three of them out of the net.

"It was just one of those nights where I was seeing the puck well," Tugnutt said after earning a 3-3 tie for the Nordiques. "And when I didn't see it, I anticipated the shots well."

He had to, because he certainly wasn't getting much help.

Tugnutt was 23 and in his fourth NHL season with the Nordiques, who were on their way to finishing last in the NHL with a 16-50-14 record; Quebec's 46 points were 11 fewer than the next-worst team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Nordiques were also the NHL's worst defensive team, allowing 354 goals (Toronto was next at 318). Tugnutt finished 12-29-10 with a 4.05 goals-against average and a save percentage of .885.

But for one night, he was as good as any goaltender who ever played.

Video: Memories: Tugnutt turns away 70 shots

The Bruins, who were cruising to a first-place finish in the Adams Division, took 17 shots on goal in the first period; Tugnutt stopped them all, enabling the Nordiques to skate off with a 1-0 lead on a goal by defenseman Randy Velischek.

Ken Hodge tied the game 15 seconds into the second period, but Mark Vermette scored at 1:43 and Tugnutt made 18 saves to keep Quebec ahead 2-1 after two periods. After Boston's Nevin Markwart and Quebec's Alexei Gusarov each scored early in the third period, Bruins star defenseman Ray Bourque got a shot past Tugnutt at 10:36 to get the Bruins even at 3-3.

The Bruins kept firing away, outshooting the Nordiques 25-5 in the third period and 12-2 in the five-minute overtime. Nothing else got past Tugnutt.

Though he scored the tying goal, Bourque probably ended the night as the most frustrated of the Bruins. He was credited with an NHL-record 19 shots on goal, the last one from point-blank range with eight seconds remaining in overtime. It wound up in Tugnutt's catching glove.

"I couldn't believe it," Bourque said after the game. "On that last one, I saw all net, nothing but net, and I thought, 'No way he's going to get this.' I shot it as hard as I could, with a guy in front of him, and he still caught it."

Bruins star Cam Neely suggested Tugnutt take a bow in front of the Boston fans, and Tugnutt obliged.

"I've never been in a situation before where an opposing player told me to take a bow in his own building," Tugnutt said afterwards.

Tugnutt's 70 saves and 73 shots faced are the second-most in NHL regular-season history in each category, behind only Sam LoPresti of the Chicago Blackhawks, who made 80 saves on 83 shots against the Bruins on March 4, 1941.

Amazingly, Tugnutt also made 70 saves in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. On May 14, 2000, he stopped 70 of the first 71 shots he faced in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers. However, this was a game that had to be played to a conclusion - and Keith Primeau beat Tugnutt 12:01 into the fifth overtime to give the Flyers a 2-1 victory.

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