Dominik Hasek had only just taken the reigns as an NHL starting goaltender when the Buffalo Sabres met the New Jersey Devils in the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
It was the beginning of a career that belongs on the short list of the greatest in history, yet even Hasek would never turn in another performance quite like the one he gave inside Memorial Auditorium during Game 6 of that series, on April 28, 1994 - nor would any other goaltender, for that matter.
Hasek outdueled Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur - whose own Hall of Fame career was also in its infancy - to win a four-overtime classic, 1-0. His 70 saves stand as the most in a shutout in NHL history. It's fourth-highest total of any game in playoff history.
The game airs tonight at 8 p.m. on MSG. Let's set the stage.
How they got there
Video: Sabres Memories: The Dominator
The Sabres went 43-32-9 for 95 points in 1993-94, good enough to finish fourth in the Northeast Division. They managed this despite playing nearly the full season without captain Pat LaFontaine, who was limited to just 16 games due to injury.
Dale Hawerchuk (86 points) and Alexander Mogilny (79) led the way offensively in LaFontaine's absence, but it was the Sabres' ability to prevent goals that was their hallmark. They allowed a league-best 218 goals during the regular season, two fewer than the second place team - which was, of course, New Jersey.
The defensive success coincided with the emergence of the 29-year-old Hasek, who - in his second season in Buffalo - had taken over starting duties from fellow future Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr. Hasek led the NHL in save percentage (.930), goals-against average (1.95), and shutouts (7), numbers that earned him his first Vezina Trophy.
"Grant Fuhr got injured and I got a chance to play as a starting goalie every game and I became very comfortable to be starting goalie," Hasek said. "… After that, I felt very comfortable. I felt like, 'I'm the one who can be the starting goalie for a great NHL team.'"
The Devils, meanwhile, had a highly touted goalie of their own in Brodeur, who won the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year with 27 wins and a .915 save percentage. The Devils earned 106 points to finish second in the Atlantic Division.
Hasek outdueled Brodeur with a 30-save shutout to win Game 1 in New Jersey, 2-0. The Devils won a pair of 2-1 contests in Game 2 and 3, but the Sabres rebound with a 5-3 victory at The Aud in Game 4. The Devils won Game 5, 5-3, forcing a do-or-die Game 6 in Buffalo.
Video: Hasek makes 70 saves in playoff shutout
Dave Hannan has re-watched the game over the years. What sticks out to him is the abundance of chances that were stifled by Brodeur.
"If you watch it, the goaltending was just - probably you won't see two goalies play any better than they did in that game," Hannan said. "Nobody gave up an inch and just when you thought it was over, there was another big save."
Hasek had already made 31 saves by the time regulation expired. It's the 25th save that still lives in his memory today - Bobby Holik got a pass across to Stephane Richer on a 2-on-1 rush only to see Hasek drop to a split and stop Richer's shot with his pad. (It was one of several saves Hasek made on Richer, who tallied a game-high nine shots).
"Good, great forward," Hasek said. "Right-hander, good shot. He had half the net open. … I just spread my legs and I made a save with the pad."
The show continued into the early hours of the morning. Players ate postgame pizza between overtime periods. Hannan recalls defenseman Randy Moller pleading for somebody to end the game.
"He came in and said, 'Listen, would somebody score a goal please because I'm going to have to pay my babysitter about $120 bucks by the time this is over,'" Hannan said. "Just things like that you remember."
The game finally ended at 1:52 a.m. - 5:43 into the fourth overtime - when Hannan caught a pass from Jason Dawe and beat Brodeur with a backhand shot from the lower edge of the right faceoff circle, forcing a Game 7 in New Jersey and prompting one of the all-time great calls from Rick Jeanneret.
Dave Hannan! Dave Hannan is mobbed by his teammates! Dave Hannan finally put away the backhand! And this series is going back to where Jimmy Hoffa is, back to the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
"That was a great moment," Hannan said. "Obviously, people remember it. It was a great thrill for me. When you score 10 or 15 goals a year, it's nice to get one big one. But it sure is one of my best memories ever."
Hasek, meanwhile, was relieved to win - though he maintains he had a few more saves in him.
"I was 29, I was in my best shape, so I didn't care how many overtimes," he said. "I know some guys, they were very tired, but I felt pretty comfortable."
Video: Sabres Memories: Dave Hannan's 4OT goal in 1994
The Sabres lost Game 7 in New Jersey, 2-1. Brodeur only stopped 17 shots to get the win. Hasek stopped 44.
"Ironically, the one sort of one more goal that I wanted, Brodeur made an unbelievable save on me with an open net and hid it in his glove," Hannan said. "We were close. … A break here, a break there, depending on how things go, we could've won. But hey, that's hockey."
At 125:43, the marathon Game 6 was the six-longest game in NHL history when it ended. It's the 11th-longest today and still the longest in the Sabres' 50-year history.
Hannan keeps the stick used to score the winning goal displayed in his room. He was given a bronze replica of the next morning's Buffalo News by Director of Player Development Don Luce, a horizontal row of zeroes that resembled a baseball box score.
"I still have it," Hannan said. "It's a great memory."