The routine might have been old, but it worked. In each of the Minnesota North Stars' three playoff openers, Coach
Stanley CupBob Gainey told his team to play the first game as if it were the seventh. Each time, they followed Gainey's instructions and won.Gainey figured the opening game of the Stanley Cup finals was no time to change, so he went with the same plan, and got the same result. The Stars won their fourth straight playoffroad opener Wednesday night, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-4, at Civic Arena to take the first step toward their first Stanley Cup.
Gainey's strategy wasn't the only thing that seemed familiar about the victory. Bobby Smith, the only Stars player to have won the Cup, scored the winning goal at 1:39 of the third period when he sneaked a backhanded shot past Penguin goalie Tom Barrasso.
Neal Broten scored two goals, including the Stars' first and the one that broke a 3-3 tie, while the penalty-killing unit snuffed out seven of eight Penguin power plays.
Former Salt Lake Golden Eagle Marc Bureau goaled for Minnesota, and ex-Eagle Joe Mullen's goal for Pittsburgh cut the lead to 5-4.
The Penguins followed a pattern themselves - for the fourth consecutive time, they lost a series opener. The Penguins must win Game Two on Friday at home to prevent the Stars from returning to Met Center with a chance to win the series.
"We were very prepared," said Smith, who scored his fourth winning goal of the playoffs. "It's a real boost for us to win the first game, especially when we play so well at home."
The Penguins had the Stars on the ropes several times, but the Stars wriggled out of jeopardy each time. The Penguins opened scoring at 3:45 of the first period when Ulf Samuelsson fired a shot past screened goaltender Jon Casey. At 6:32, Broten scored his first. At 9:49, Ulf Dahlen scored his first goal of the playoffs to give the Stars a 2-1 lead, and they never trailed after that, though the Penguins rallied.
At 6:53 of the second period, the Stars regained control of pace and game when Bureau stole the puck from Larry Murphy and fired a wide-open shot from the slot past Barrasso for a short-handed goal. "That was a big goal, because it put us ahead 3-2," said Bureau, who has three goals - his first three in the NHL - on three straight shots in the playoffs.
"It really pumped the team up. They came back after that to tie it again, but even after their third goal, we were still pumped."
The Penguins tied the score again less than a minute after Bureau's goal, when Scott Young beat Casey on the power play. Again the Stars got the goal they needed: Broten corralled a rebound and tucked it behind Barrasso's glove to give the Stars a 4-3 lead at the second intermission.