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An Oral History of the 1991 Stanley Cup Title (Part 4)

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Penguins

The following is an oral history of the Penguins' 1990-91 championship season as told through the views of forwards Bob Errey and Phil Bourque. This is part four of a four-part series that will focus primarily on the 1991 Stanley Cup Final against the Minnesota North Stars, which will be re-airing the next two weeks on AT&T SportsNet.

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The Penguins opened Game 5 much like they did Game 4, by taking a huge lead. Pittsburgh had a 4-0 advantage before the game was even 14 minutes old. And just like Game 3, the North Stars clawed back to pull within one goal, 5-4. But Pittsburgh finished the job for a 6-4 win and 3-2 series lead.

Bourque: We played a lot of firewagon wide-open hockey. We always felt we could score goals. If we go up by three or four goals and a team comes back, we would just step on the gas pedal again. That's Penguins hockey back then. There was no panic. There was extreme confidence that we would just get the next one. We never flinched just because a team was able to come back and get a couple goals.

Errey: We felt pretty good on home ice. It didn't feel anything like Game 4. I knew we were going to be taking it back with a chance to win in Minnesota. We all felt that way. We were finding our confidence at that point. We were finally breaking them down. We were finally able to instill some fear in them. Because they were rolling at home. They had a lot of things going. They were the underdog all the way along. I just think we finally put some doubt into their minds, which is the key.

The Penguins would return to Minnesota for Game 6 and a chance to win the Stanley Cup. But before the team left, Bourque began something that would become a personal tradition.

Bourque: Before we went to Minnesota for Game 6, I went to a church down the street from my house in Upper St. Clair. I went in, lit a candle and dropped to my knees, prayed for a good 20 minutes of what I was hoping would happen. I'm religious, but I'm not a disciplined religious person. That became a tradition for me after that. Every time we've won a Stanley Cup, those five times, I had gone to a church before that and did this exact same thing.

[Went to that church in Pittsburgh for '91 and '92. In Detroit I went to a church near the team hotel. In San Jose was a church that was closed. A woman that worked in the church was just about to go home. She unlocked the door and let me in after I explained to her what I needed to do. For Nashville I went back to the same church in Upper St. Clair. Even though I live out by the airport I drove all the way to go back to that church in Upper St. Clair.]

As the puck dropped for Game 6, the Penguins were as focused as ever on finishing the job.

Errey: We knew the Cup was in the building. There is no point in waiting to get back home (for Game 7). Let's get it done. That was the attitude. I don't know if you ever feel like you're going to win it until you win it. But I felt like we were the better team at that point, and if we put our best game on the ice …

The Penguins opened the scoring on a goal by Ulf Samuelsson two minutes into the contest. Mario Lemieux and Joey Mullen gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead after the first period. And for the third straight game, the Penguins built a substantial lead. But unlike the previous two games, the North Stars never had a chance to climb back.

Bourque: Right before Bobby scored, Ronnie (Francis) scored and Joey (Mullen) scored (to make it 6-0), they were trying to goon it up. Shane Churla and a couple other guys were sucking punching guys. I got sucker punched in the face by Churla, and we just took it. I remember after I got sucker punched, I got up and said, 'Punch me in the face again. Please. Please. Please. Do it again.' He thought I was nuts. But I was thinking, 'Go sit in the box again and we'll just keep piling it on.' We were incredibly disciplined, and were a tougher team than people wanted to give us credit for both physically and mentally.

Errey: If you watch those games, they were brutal, the way Minnesota played against us. I'm not saying we weren't brutal. But they were very brutal. The stick work was relentless, and the hacks, the hooks, the slashes - it just never ended. At some point we wanted to just get the job done. We felt if we could skate, move our legs and make those plays we would start to slow them down. I think that's what happened as the series went along.

That 3-0 lead held until late in the second period when Errey scored his fifth of the playoffs with just 6:45 remaining to make it 4-0. Ron Francis and Mullen (second of the game) would extend the lead to 6-0 after 40 minutes.

Errey: There's a big difference between 3-1 and 4-0. To be honest with you, it was 6-0 after two periods and I was still nervous in the dressing room in Minnesota. You never really know. I didn't see 'Pittsburgh Penguins' etched in the Cup yet. In the third period, once it got rolling, I got less nervous.

Bourque: Badger came in (at second intermission) and he didn't give us a whole lot of X's and O's. He said don't blank it up. We all laughed and said, 'Let's go get em.'

Rookie defenseman Jim Paek scored 89 seconds into the third period to make it a 7-0 game. But there were still 18:31 seconds on the clock before the Penguins could be crowned.

Errey: We were as excited when (Jim Paek) scored the seventh goal as when Ulfie scored the first goal. I mean that sincerely. And as we got going I didn't want to be on the ice. I didn't mind being on the ice, but it was more exciting being on the bench celebrating with our team. Our team was so jacked up on the bench during that third period that it was more exciting to be on the bench at that particular time and in that high, in that moment than it was being on the ice for that third period of the game.

Larry Murphy added the final tally in the eventual 8-0 victory as the Penguins counted down the final minutes of the game.

Errey: You wanted to get the red line and keeping dumping it in and change, keep the clock going. We had our families and wives/girlfriends in the crowd. They came on their own flight up and were coming back with us. You were able to spot them in the crowd and acknowledge them at that point because of the situation, the score. Just little things like that.

You know Bryan Trottier. He's the biggest kid of any kid on the team. And he had already won a bunch of them and he was like he had never won it before the way he was. He was a little kid on the bench. When he's on the bench like that you can't help but smile. It was a great feeling. It was awesome, just awesome.

Bourque: Until there was three minutes left in the game and it's 8-0, I was sitting next to Mark Recchi and I said, 'Hey Rex, we're going to win the Cup.' And that was the first time I allowed myself to exhale and relax and just enjoy the moment that we were going to win the Cup.

Finally, after 24 years as a laughingstock in the NHL, the Penguins were champions. They went from the cellar to the summit. And on the ice, they triumphantly raised the Stanley Cup.

Bourque: When the clock actually goes to zeroes, it's emotional. You almost do 30-second movie clips in your head. For me it was learning to skate when my dad would flood the driver in our house in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Playing on all these different teams in youth hockey and high school hockey. Going up to Canada to play junior hockey. Not being drafted and being disappointed. In 30 seconds all of these things hit me - Bam! Bam! Bam! - and you see movies where they do that. They go off in your head, all these things that happened in your life. All those people saying, 'That kid will never make it. He can skate, but he'll never play pro.' All the people doubting you. And all the people that did believe in you along the way. Gene Ubriaco, who was so instrumental in me getting to the NHL; never mind just staying as a pro. What your mom and dad did financially. We weren't well off at all, barely middle class. Somehow my dad was able to pull things together financially to have the best equipment, to play for multiple teams, to travel all over New England. All those things start going off in your head.

Then you look into the eyes of your teammates and you're feeling their emotions. You want to embrace it, but it's hard to because so many things are happening so quickly after such a long grueling run.

Errey: There's not a lot of time to exhale until everybody leaves the (locker) room and you're alone with your family. It was an hour after (winning) that you were able to sit down calmly and soak it all in.

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