Not only was he the most unlikely candidate, but he did it under the most unlikely circumstances.
It was the playoffs … Game 7 … on the road … overtime … against one of the greatest goaltenders in the game.
Robert Lang, a goal-scorer, skated up the right wing with the puck in to the Sabres’ zone and eyed the net. He had a defenseman in front of him and a trailing Kasparaitis. The last thing anyone thought was that he’d pass it to a clearly inept scorer in Kasper.
Obviously, Dominic Hasek thought so too as the puck sailed past him and in to the net.
Mike Lange put it best, as he always does, after Kasper ended it …
“Of all the candidates you could talk about, probably one of the most least likely would be the Penguins’ Darius Kasparaitis. And he gets the game winner.”
In 2001 the Penguins reached the Eastern Conference semi-finals by beating Washington (who else), setting up a matchup against the Sabres. Pittsburgh took the two opening games on the road, but then dropped three in a row.
The season was kept alive by a miracle goal by Mario Lemieux that tied game 6 in the waning seconds of regulation.
Martin Straka won the game in overtime.
The teams were destined to go to overtime again and that’s just what they did.
This moment didn’t lead to anything more. The Penguins were ousted in the Eastern Conference Finals by New Jersey, rather handily, in 5 games.
This moment was just about the circumstances. Few that watched it will ever forget it. Darius Kasparaitis left his mark on the Penguins and the NHL with his physical play and bone-jarring hits.
However, he left Penguins fans with the memory of that goal. Unforgettable to say the very least.
Chris | PPT