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Avalanche Puts in Long Hours, Completes Sweep of Panthers

Stanley Cup finals: Krupp's goal in third overtime gives Colorado a 1-0 victory.


MIAMI — The Florida Panthers stayed at the ball past midnight--until 1:07 a.m. Eastern Time Tuesday, in fact--but the Colorado Avalanche went home with the Stanley Cup.

The Avalanche ended the Panthers' Cinderella season at 4:31 of the third overtime on a 50-foot shot by German-born defenseman Uwe Krupp, winning, 1-0, and sweeping the series in four games.

The third-year Panthers, whose advance to the finals was the biggest surprise in the NHL this season, simply lacked the offense to match the Avalanche, which won its first Cup after 16 seasons in Quebec as the Nordiques and one in Colorado.

"The Florida Panthers were an unbelievable story this year," said Colorado Coach Marc Crawford, whose team held Florida to four goals in the four games. "It's obvious hockey is in good hands here in South Florida."

Colorado center Joe Sakic, who led all playoff scorers with 18 goals and 34 points, was named winner of the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. Sakic had at least one point in all but three of the Avalanche's 22 playoff games.

"What a feeling. This is unbelievable," said Sakic, who went through many lean years while the Nordiques slowly built themselves into a league powerhouse.

Krupp, who missed most of the season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, "is a very special story," Crawford said. "Guys can look to the example he gives and continues to give."

Krupp's goal ended a splendid game in which goaltenders Patrick Roy of Colorado and John Vanbiesbrouck of Florida lifted the 14,703 fans at Miami Arena to their feet countless times with dozens of spectacular saves. Roy, playing on his third Cup-winning team, made 63 saves in a game that began Monday night in steamy Miami and finished in the early hours of Tuesday. Vanbiesbrouck made 55 saves.

"We accomplished a lot this year so we can't be disappointed," said Vanbiesbrouck. "We put up as much [resistance] as we could but we couldn't get anything past Patrick Roy."

Roy extended his winning streak in the Cup finals to eight games, since he lost to the Kings in Game 1 of the 1993 final series while playing for Montreal. "It was a great game. John played outstanding. I just tried to keep making good saves," said Roy, whom Colorado acquired from the Canadiens last December.

The game marked the first time the Cup was won in overtime since May 24, 1980, when Bob Nystrom scored the winner 7:11 into sudden-death play to give the New York Islanders the first of their four straight Cups. Since 1927, 13 Cups have been awarded after an overtime goal.

The game was the third-longest overtime game in the finals. The record is 55 minutes, 13 seconds in Game 1 of the 1990 final between the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins. Edmonton won that game, 3-2, and won the series. The only other longer game in the finals was 53:50 in Game 2 of the 1931 final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens. Marvin Wentworth scored the decisive goal in a 3-2 Blackhawk victory, but Montreal won the series.

The fans rode a roller coaster of emotions throughout the game, not knowing if the next shot would keep alive their impossible dream or end the season and send the Avalanche back to Denver with the Cup. Their gasps of disbelief were never more audible than with 3:20 left in the second overtime, when Adam Deadmarsh had Vanbiesbrouck at his mercy from 10 feet out.

Vanbiesbrouck managed to get a piece of the puck with his pad, but it then bounced off the crossbar and into the crease as he lay sprawled and out of the play. Scott Young pounced on the rebound but Panther defenseman Paul Laus saved the game--and Florida's season--by blocking Young's rebound attempt.

Through two overtimes, Roy had 60 saves and Vanbiesbrouck had made 52.

Only two Cup clinchers had previously ended in 1-0 decisions: the 1974 Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Boston Bruins by 1-0 in the sixth game of their series on a goal by Rick MacLeish and the 1953 Montreal Canadiens defeated the Bruins by that score thanks to an overtime goal by Elmer Lach.

For the fourth straight game, the Avalanche shut out the Panthers in the second and third periods. By the end of regulation time, Colorado had blanked Florida for a span of 108:41, since Rob Niedermayer's goal at 11:19 of the first period in Game 3.

But Vanbiesbrouck was Roy's equal Monday, stopping 29 shots in regulation time. Ten of those saves came in the third period, when the Panthers' desperation and sense of urgency intensified. Roy, who stood impassively in front of his net while fans pelted him with plastic rats during the national anthem, didn't give those fans a chance to throw any more toy rodents after a Panther goal.


Stanley Cup Notes

The Avalanche became the first Western Conference team to win the Cup since the 1990 Edmonton Oilers. However, this is their first season in the West, after playing in the East as the Quebec Nordiques. . . . Colorado Coach Marc Crawford, who is 35 years, 4 months old, became the third-youngest coach to win the Cup since 1924. The youngest were Montreal's Claude Ruel, who was 30 years, 6 months old when he led the Canadiens to victory in 1969, and Cy Denneny, who was 32 years, 3 months old when he led the Boston Bruins to the Cup in 1929. . . . Colorado's Claude Lemieux became the fourth player to win the Cup with three teams and the fifth to win in back-to-back years on different clubs. He previously won with Montreal and New Jersey.

* NHL COLUMN: League television ratings are still minuscule, but Commissioner Gary Bettman said he doesn't measure the NHL's progress against other sports. C3

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