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May 4, 2005 - Pens-Flyers marathon was one for the ages

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Pens-Flyers marathon was one for the ages

By Joe Starkey
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

The late, great Herb Brooks never found himself at a loss for words, save for the night he tried to describe a hockey game in which one player logged 73 shifts, another made 70 saves and another scored the winning goal in the middle of the fifth overtime.

It was Game 4 of an Eastern Conference semifinal, and it began five years ago tonight at Mellon Arena.

It ended five years ago tomorrow.

If you're still waiting for the final score, you can find it etched into the record books as the third-longest game in NHL history.

 

Flyers 2, Penguins 1.

GW goal: Keith Primeau, 92:01 of overtime.

"It's certainly hard to describe a game like this," said then-Penguins coach Brooks. "Where do you start, and where do you finish?"

Anyone who stayed to the bitter end -- about 7,000 fans, 275 arena workers and a press box filled with famished media types -- will never forget the experience.

I remember ESPN's Steve Levy walking up after the fourth overtime and saying, "We're going to be on ESPN Classic by the time this is done."

The press box food had disappeared by midnight. Tom McMillan, the Penguins' vice president of communications, appeared with two bags of pretzels at 1 a.m.

"I was almost attacked," McMillan later said.

The concession-stand beer stopped flowing at the end of regulation. Hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, nachos and soda were cut off after the fourth overtime.

The Penguins munched Power Bars and pizza between overtimes and talked about who would score the winner.

"Pat Falloon and I were convinced we would get it," ex-Penguins defenseman Ian Moran recalled Tuesday.

Clearly, delirium had set in.

Some players were hooked up to intravenous fluids. Ron Tugnutt, who made a franchise-record 70 saves, didn't know that was an option.

"I heard about it afterwards," Tugnutt said yesterday from his home in Ottawa. "I said, 'Are you kidding? I lost 12 pounds tonight. I could have used an IV.' "

Instead, he drank water and implored his teammates: "Somebody finish this, please!"

Finally, somebody did. Primeau stepped around Darius Kasparaitis in the right circle and fired a shot over Tugnutt's left shoulder.

And just like that, the longest NHL game in 64 years was finished.

At 2:35 a.m.

"I couldn't even make last call," Moran says.

The Penguins had opened the series with consecutive wins in Philly before losing Game 3 in overtime.

Game 4 crushed them.

Primeau believes a few factors worked in his favor. He'd been a holdout in Carolina and had played only 23 games, so his legs were fresh.

"Plus, it was no longer a playoff-type game by the fourth OT -- no clutching or grabbing," Primeau said yesterday in a phone interview.

Primeau never saw the puck go in, either. He only heard the "ping" off the back bar.

By the end of the third OT, the Flyers had run out of everything, including IV fluid.

"It became comical," Primeau recalled. "Guys were wanting to order food in."

Tugnutt never recaptured the magic he displayed in that series. He plays forward in a men's league these days and contemplates a lockout-forced retirement.

He and Primeau haven't yet had the chance to discuss the famous goal.

"If I saw him, I'd probably tell him it was a good thing he took half the season off," Tugnutt said. "He was the only one with some juice in the tank."