Darius Kasparaitis

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Sports Uncovered: Brian Boucher on playing goal during the ‘Marathon on Ice’

What’s it like to be a goaltender in the middle of a game that needs five overtimes to be decided?

Sweaty. Very sweaty.

That was Brian Boucher’s experience during Game 4 of the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinal between the Flyers the Penguins. He played all 151:48 that night, stopping 57 of 58 shots during Philadelphia’s 2-1 win. After Keith Primeau’s goal, the scene back in the dressing room was a messy one.

“When that game ended I took my skates off, I poured sweat out of them,” Boucher told NBC Sports. “I was drenched. I don’t know how much weight I lost that game.”

The story of Game 4 is the subject of the latest episode of NBC Sports Regional Network’s podcast series, Sports Uncovered.

“Marathon on Ice” was released Thursday and features Boucher, Chris Therien, Keith Jones, Ron Tugnutt, and Bob Boughner.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

The Flyers entered Game 4 down 2-1 in the series. They almost faced a 3-0 deficit if not for Andy Delmore’s overtime goal in Game 3. That gave them confidence heading into a crucial game.

“I don’t think we could have ever prepared for what was to come in Game 4,” Boucher said.

But any sense of momentum on the Flyers’ side quickly dissipated after Alexei Kovalev’s goal 2:22 into the game. The Penguins were ahead until early in the third period when John LeClair tied it, setting the stage for a long night. And we wouldn’t be talking about this game 20 years later if Daymond Langkow’s shot 30 seconds into the first overtime had gone in and not hit the post.

No pressure for Boucher

For Boucher, he was a rookie who took over the No. 1 job from John Vanbiesbrouck during an eventful season. The 1999-2000 campaign was one that featured Eric Lindros’ issues with concussions and Bobby Clarke; head coach Roger Neilson stepping away following a cancer diagnosis; and the franchise reeling from the deaths of broadcaster Gene Hart and defenseman Dmitri Tertyshny.

Now he was in the middle of a crucial moment in the Flyers’ season. A loss would create a mountain to climb. A win could help push them towards a series comeback. Facing what he was, Boucher didn’t feel any nerves as the overtime periods went on.

“I think you just get focused and you get in a zone,” he said. “I felt like as that game went on the game seemed to slow down and it probably did because guys were tired, and I think the quality of the game wasn’t there. Having it be a situation where next goal wins, there is pressure. I think that pressure is always there, but you’re not thinking about it consciously — at least, I wasn’t. I really felt dialed in and I felt like I had to focus on the next shot, the next save all the time.”

The overtimes kept ending with no winning goal. Despite facing a 3-1 deficit with a loss, it wasn’t a tense Flyers dressing room. With the number of characters on the roster — Therien, Jones, Craig Berube, Rick Tocchet — the mood was light. Somebody end this thing already! was a light-hearted rallying cry.

Between soaked skates, multiple undershirts, and unknown weight loss, it was quite a night for Boucher in goal. The amount of hockey played took a toll on his body in-game.

“I was cramping up bad to start that eighth period,” he said. “I remember I was scraping my crease and I had my stretching routine that I did, and I couldn’t do it because I was afraid to seize up. I wouldn’t ever want to go through a game like that ever again.”

Keeping the fluids flowing

Recovery for Boucher was mostly about staying hydrated. He found himself more thirsty than hungry when he played, and Gatorade and Pedialyte helped him replenish his fluids.

Finally, at 12:01 of the fifth overtime, and at around 2:35 a.m. ET, Keith Primeau, acquired that season for Rod Brind’Amour, cut back on Darius Kasparaitis and wired a shot by Ron Tugnutt, ending the third-longest game in NHL history.

“I saw it perfectly,” Boucher said. “I felt like he had made that move a couple of times in that series or I’d seen that move a lot where he goes to the outside and cuts into the middle on his forehand. Sometimes the puck would jump over his stick and it just didn’t work out. In this one, he cut right in and all I heard was clunk and I knew once it made that clunk sound that it was over. It wasn’t a ping. If it’s a ping, it’s the crossbar, but it was distinct. It was clunk and I was like Yes!. 

I remember I skated toward the pile by referee Rob Schick as he was skating off and I patted him on the head. I was like Thank, God this is over. What a feeling to come out on the right side of that one.”

There was an extra day off before Game 5, and ultimately that win would propel the Flyers to a six-game series victory.

“I think everybody knew as that overtime was wearing on, you get the feel like this is the series here,” Boucher said. “Either we’re down 3-1 or we got it to 2-2 going home, and we feel a lot better about ourselves after these two games. We knew the importance of it.”

“Sports Uncovered” utilizes exclusive, in-depth interviews with prominent participants, witnesses and experts to explore new, underreported or forgotten aspects of well-known topics centered in each of the NBC Sports Regional Networks markets.

Episodes also cover: Michael Jordan’s NBA return, in-depth looks at Bill Belichick and the late Sean Taylor, the story behind Barret Robbins’ Super Bowl disappearance, and the University of Oregon’s uniform revolution.

Sports Uncovered” is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: Apple, Google Podcast, iHeart, Stitcher, Spotify, and TuneIn.

MORE:
Tocchet, Jones had Marathon at the Movies before Marathon on Ice
Jones’ memento and what we forget from the Marathon on Ice

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: No hub cities ruled out by NHL yet; CBA extension brewing?

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Pierre LeBrun reported that, as of Monday, none of the 10 cities have been “ruled out” yet as hub cities. LeBrun also reports that the NHL is looping in the NHLPA on such matters. This won’t stop people from speculating about hub city frontrunners, but good to know that there could — theoretically — be more twists and turns. [TSN/Pierre LeBrun on Twitter]

• So, cities want to serve as hubs. How much value would the hub city experience actually bring to a given market, though? Daniel Nugent-Bowman recently asked some experts, and the general takeaway is that such benefits are overblown. [The Athletic, sub required]

• Ranking Bruins jerseys, from worst to best. Ally Koss apologizes for ranking the “Smokey the Bear” jerseys last. That apology prompts this question: are there people who ever liked those unironically? [Hockey By Design]

• This post went up in early May, but is it ever too late to read about Darius Kasparaitis? Aside: I totally thought I remembered how to spell his name without looking it up. I was wrong. [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• In discussing how players can drive up energy without fans, Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse hoped to channel Michael Jordan’s competitive fire. As much as I enjoyed “The Last Dance,” that … feels like a bit of a stretch. Either way, it’s interesting to hear what players have to say about that experience, and probably won’t stop being interesting for a long time. [The Canadian Press]

As discussed before, there are rumblings of one possible positive emerging amid the pandemic pause: a CBA extension. Lyle Richardson delves into that possibility, with the NHL reportedly preferring a five-year extension (through 2026-27), while the NHLPA might want it through 2025-26. After all of the lockouts, it really all feels like gravy to me, personally. [Spector’s Hockey]

• How long will it take for players to go from pandemic pause to “game speed?” Depends on the players. In this instance, different Capitals had different takes, with Alex Ovechkin among those seeming pretty optimistic (relatively speaking). [NBC Sports Washington]

• Interesting read on how Kings prospect Blake Lizotte took an unusual path to the NHL. [The Hockey News]

• Amid all of the angst surrounding the Maple Leafs, it rarely felt like the team was at 100-percent. This Leafs Nation post really digs into that assumption, and strengthens that argument. Now, sure, plenty of teams need to roll with the punches, but this is still food for thought. [Leafs Nation]

• A look at Jason Botterill’s struggles as Sabres GM. While not every move was that bad in a vacuum (the Brandon Montour investment seemed like a fair way to address a big problem), the bigger picture isn’t very pretty. Then again, how many times do you want to hit the “reset” button with a franchise? The Sabres are a in a tough spot. [Last Word on Hockey]

• USA Hockey player membership saw its first drop in numbers since they began publishing said stats. It’s tough to say this would have happened if not for COVID-19, yet it’s noteworthy nonetheless. [NHL to Seattle]

• Ray Sheppard looks back at the Panthers’ improbable run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. No plastic rats were harmed in the process. [Panthers Press Box]

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

My Favorite Goal: Malik’s stunning shootout winner vs. Capitals

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Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers and personalities remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, Scott Charles remembers Marek Malik’s wild shootout-winning deke against the Capitals in 2005.

14 years ago, the shootout was still a new phenomenon in its first year of existence.

The NHL implemented the game-deciding method after a lockout to add a unique level of excitement and create a stand-alone moment within the game for players to showcase their individual skills. Fans have seen plenty of breakaway attempts and penalty shots throughout the years, but the concept of a singular moment with the game on the line created a buzz.

Many NHL stars struggled to adapt to the one-on-one event while several unknown players became heroes overnight.

Marek Malik of the New York Rangers used his opportunity to cement his legacy in the organization’s history.

Rangers coach Tom Renney elected to send Malik over the boards in the 15th round on November 26, 2005 when New York squared off against the Washington Capitals.

Renney had few options at the time because shooters are not allowed to shoot twice unlike international competitions. But when the six-foot six-inch offensively challenged defenseman took the ice, a moment about to be etched into NHL history.

The big fellow skated to the right, majestically slid the puck between his legs and released a wrist shot that sent Madison Square Garden into a frenzy for the second time that day!

“I was expecting to see a shot,” Renney remembered. “I certainly was not expecting, as was no one else in the building expecting to see what he did. It was completely out there and maybe that was the right approach. Maybe Malik was having just enough fun watching all of this as I think we all did. It kind of didn’t matter so go try something. He did and it worked.”

The Rangers and the NBA’s Knicks often play the same day at MSG, but on this Saturday both teams left the venue with thrilling victories. Nate Robinson drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to propel the Knicks to an overtime win against the Philadelphia 76ers prior to Malik’s beauty.

Malik had the chance to become a fan favorite because Jason Strudwick answered the bell in the round prior.

Bryan Muir of the Capitals scored and Renney had to make a very difficult decision; he needed to find someone to respond. The three remaining players who hadn’t shot yet were Strudwick, Darius Kasparaitis and Malik.

“He (Kasparaitis) kept looking at me every time I looked toward that end of the bench,” Renney said. “I was doing everything I could to not make eye contact with him. Kasparaitis was doing everything he could to make eye contact with me and Strudwick was doing everything he could to not make eye contact with me. There was a certain irony in all of that.”

Even though Strudwick lacked confidence Renney selected him anyway.

“I was thinking there was no way I was going to score,” Strudwick said while chuckling. “I remember Tom calling my name I pretended I did not hear him. He looked over and I was like ‘Oh God.’ Over my career I wasn’t really an offensive type guy. Part of me was praying someone would have scored earlier to just end it, but part of me was thinking I actually want a chance at this.”

Malik’s shootout goal encapsulates the spirit of the unlikely hero. A reminder of the underdog moments of triumph hockey can create.

Depth defensemen and bottom-six forwards are often overlooked and viewed as replaceable players, but the ‘Malik Deke’ was another reminder how talented each NHL player is despite their role on any team.

PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL
McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final
Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.