SUN Hockey Pool

Lanny authors fairy tale farewell

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:30 PM ET

It didn't take a Red Mile, The Eliminator or Darryl Sutter to put the Flames on the map in Calgary. With classic names such as Hakan Loob, Willi Plett, Jim Peplinski and Joel Otto, the Flames have been an integral part of the Stampede City for 25 years. Over a five-part series, Sun writers Eric Francis, Randy Sportak and Steve Macfarlane will examine the team's history, its greatest players and its finest moments.

Could it have been destiny?

Divine intervention or something written in the stars? Or maybe it was simply the perfect ending to Lanny McDonald's brilliant Hall of Fame career.

May 25, 1989 will always have a special place in Calgary's history.

It was the day McDonald tallied in the Calgary Flames' 4-2 Stanley Cup- clinching victory over the Canadiens in Montreal.

It was Calgary's first and only Stanley Cup and McDonald's last goal before calling it a career.

The storybook finale.

"There was never a better script than Lanny McDonald scoring that goal," recalls goaltender Mike Vernon.

It was more than just any goal. Sure, Doug Gilmour is credited with that Game 6 winner but there was something about McDonald's goal that broke a 1-1 tie.

Longtime Flames play-by-play man Peter Maher believes McDonald's tally was the biggest part of that game.

"I know it wasn't the winning goal but it was the biggest goal. Even though it was a tight game, it seemed from that point on, they were in control," he said.

On the morning of May 25, there was a special feeling in Calgary. The belief that glory would come that night was almost palpable.

It was a similar feeling in Montreal, too.

With a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven affair, the Flames were as few as 60 minutes away from finally claiming a Stanley Cup.

They were on a roll, having taken the previous two tilts before hitting the ice at the fabled Montreal Forum, and feeling a sense of certainty, co-captain Jim Peplinski recalls.

"We were never over-confident and never cocky but, when I look back, there wasn't much doubt in my mind," he said.

"We were a strong team, good physically, had great goaltending and went through real adversity in the first round. It really would have been a real shame if we hadn't won."

There was reason to doubt it would happen that night.

In the history of the Forum, no team other than the Canadiens had hoisted the Cup.

For those who believe in those things, the Ghosts of the Forum would have to be exorcised.

Colin Patterson fired the first bullet.

"I had the good fortune of scoring the first goal and we were leading 1-0 after the first period, so during intermission I was thinking, 'If we get the shutout, it'll be the winner,' " Patterson said.

"Of course, they scored right away in the second period and blew that thought away."

McDonald's tally came a few minutes later, with the lead extended further by Gilmour's first of the game.

Rick Green pulled the Canadiens within one but Gilmour iced it on an empty-netter with slightly more than a minute to play.

"It really was great sitting on the bench thinking, 'Only 10 more minutes until we win the Stanley Cup. Only five more minutes until we win the Stanley Cup. Only two more minutes until we win the Stanley Cup,' " Patterson said. "When Doug Gilmour put it into the empty net at the end, it all came true."

Even the Montreal faithful were happy to join in the celebration when the Cup was presented, much to Vernon's surprise.

"They stood up and gave us a warm ovation. It was a great feeling," he said.

The obligatory team photo was taken on the ice, then everyone traipsed into the crammed dressing room to revel in the festivities.

Vernon chose to enjoy the moment from his perch at his stall.

"I was so tired, so happy yet so tired at the same time," he said, recalling how he decided to just view his teammates' elation.

"I was really enjoying myself sitting back watching everybody celebrate -- watching Lanny -- and just taking it all in."


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