The Vancouver Canucks are fast becoming the overtime kings of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And Kirk McLean is the main reason why."The Rangers had some good opportunities but we had Kirk in net," Vancouver defenseman Dave Babych said after yet another great performance by McLean led the Canucks to a 3-2 overtime victory over New York in the opener of the Stanley Cup finals Tuesday night.
Sensational performances by McLean have become commonplace in this year's playoffs, as have Canucks victories in overtime. This triumph improved their record to 6-1 in such games.
"McLean is the reason why they're here to begin with," Rangers coach Mike Keenan said. "I watched the overtimes in the Calgary series. He has had the best series of a goaltender in the playoffs."
The Canucks didn't look like they were going to get out of the first round after losing three of the first four games to Calgary. But Vancouver won three straight in overtime, largely because of McLean's goaltending.
Tuesday night was no different, as he made 52 saves, the most in a finals game since 1971.
Other goaltenders with 50 or more saves in finals competition since 1958, when record-keeping began: Montreal's Rogie Vachon, 51 in Game 3 against Toronto, 1967; Toronto's Johnny Bower, 61 in Game 3 against Montreal, 1967; Montreal's Ken Dryden, 56 in Game 1 against Chicago, 1971.
"I thought we played a great game, but McLean made great saves against us," said New York forward Stephane Matteau, who scored two overtime game-winners for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final against the New Jersey Devils.
"Things have been bouncing right for the team and that comes from hard work. Things happen good on a personal note because of what the team is doing around you. We're a confident team right now," he said.
And well they should be, especially when they take a team into overtime. The Canucks are just the third team in NHL history to win six games in OT in one postseason.
The Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens set an NHL record last season with 10 overtime wins. The New York Islanders won six OT games en route to the Stanley Cup championship in 1980.
While McLean gave the Canucks a chance to win, Greg Adams gave them their winning goal with 33.1 seconds left in overtime. Adams took a pass from Cliff Ronning and beat Mike Richter from the slot.
The Rangers had carried a 1-0 lead into the third period thanks to Steve Larmer's rebound goal at 3:32 of the first.
In the third period, Bret Hedican scored from the low slot at 5:45 to tie it for Vancouver. Alexei Kovalev put New York ahead 2-1 when he scored from outside the crease at 8:29. With one minute left, Vancouver's Martin Gelinas scored on a deflection to send the game into overtime.
It was the third time in the last eight games that the Rangers had given up a goal in the final minute to force overtime.
"It was pretty obvious how Kirk was the story of the game," Adams said. "He was the guy who held us in there. He came out strong, especially in the first period.
"He kept us right there and gave us the opportunity to get a couple of goals to get back into it."