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EDMONTON, AB - Oilers 4, Stars 3 (OT) | Box Score
It's one of the most iconic games in Edmonton Oilers history.
Ron Low and the Edmonton Oilers versus Ken Hitchcock and the Dallas Stars. Game seven.
The Oilers were making their first post-season appearance in five seasons. Led by Doug Weight, Ryan Smyth and Curtis Joseph, Edmonton squeaked into the NHL Playoffs with a 36-37-9 record - one of four teams to qualify for the playoffs with a winning percentage below 50 percent.
Ken Hitchcock led a Dallas squad featuring Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk and Andy Moog to first place in the Central Division (48-26-8). The 1996-97 season was Hitchcock's first full season behind the bench - he was hired halfway through the 95-96 season, replacing Bob Gainey.
With the series coming back to Dallas after a 3-2 Stars victory at the Edmonton Coliseum just two days prior, both Hitchcock and Low were gunning for their first career playoff series victories.
After Stars centre Benoit Hogue got the scoring started just 1:38 into the hockey game, it was Rem Murray who responded just seven seconds later with the first playoff goal of his career. On the rush, the winger deposited a rebound that ricocheted off the post behind Moog for Edmonton's first tally of the night. Joe Hulbig had the only assist on the play in his first career playoff game - it would serve as the only NHL playoff point he registered in his career.
Boris Mironov would give Edmonton their first lead in the second period with a booming shot on the power play. It was Mironov's second of the post-season, as the defenseman continued his production throughout the playoffs with 10 points (2G, 8A) in 12 games.
Dallas replied with a powerplay tally of their own before taking the lead once again with goals just 2:05 apart. It seemed as if the Stars would take a 3-2 heading into the final frame but Andrei Kovalenko had other ideas, scoring the game's third tying goal with just 20 seconds on the clock. Kovalenko was riding a hot stick from a productive regular season - his first in an Oilers uniform - as the winger amassed 59 points (32G, 27A) in 74 games. The Russian joined Ryan Smyth as the only Oilers to score more than 30 goals in 96-97.
After a scoreless third period that saw Hitchcock's Stars out chance the Oilers by a 14-8 margin, the teams headed to overtime to decide the series' victor.
And we all know how the story ends.
The Stars were pressing for the series-clincher but goaltender Curtis Joseph was spectacular down the stretch, with his best save coming off the stick of Joe Nieuwendyk - one of the most memorable stops in Oilers history.
"What a save! Do you believe that? Oh, mercy," expressed play-by-play broadcaster Gary Thorne. "There was nothing but air. And then, there was Cujo.
"That's as great of a save as you'll ever see."
On his 30th birthday, 'Cujo' stopped the initial wraparound attempt by Daryl Sydor before sprawling to his right and making a miraculous glove save on Nieuwendyk. Joseph was required to come across his body with the glove hand to make the "save of the playoffs."
"Ken Hitchcock almost had a bit of a smirk over there, like 'I can't believe that,'" explained colour commentator Bill Clement. "I didn't even believe that Curtis Joseph had stopped it."
Just 23 seconds later, it was speedster Todd Marchant who took a Weight pass in stride and blew by Stars defenceman Grant Ledyard on the right wing. The 23-year-old would bury his second of the playoffs blocker side on Andy Moog for one of the most memorable goals - and upsets - in Oilers history.
With the win the Oilers would advance to the second round of the Playoffs while Ken Hitchcock suffered the first series defeat of his career. However, the Edmonton, AB native would lead the Stars to four consecutive division-winning seasons following the 96-97 season. Hitchcock and the Stars would make the Stanley Cup Finals twice in his seven-year tenure in Dallas, capturing the Stanley Cup in 1999.