Six hours after they started, as the clock moved past 1:45 a.m. on April 28, 1994, the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils were still on the ice in Memorial Auditorium.
Dominik Hasek looked up at the shots on goal board on the facing of the balcony. It said the Devils had 70. Yes, 70. The game was still tied at 0-0 in the fourth overtime.
"It was like two minutes before it ended and I looked up and I saw it was 70 for them and 49 for us," Hasek said recently in an interview with The Buffalo News during a visit to KeyBank Center. "I still remember seeing that. Seeing 70 was an amazing number. I know within a minute we scored a goal on the 50th shot."
That shot, a backhand by Dave Hannan, gave the Sabres a 1-0 victory in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series. It ended at 1:52 a.m. and remains the longest game in Sabres history and the third-longest 1-0 contest in NHL history.
It started at 7:45 p.m. on April 27, 1994 – exactly 25 years ago Saturday.
And while perhaps the brightest memories are the joy of the ending, puncuated by another classic Rick Jeanneret call, this game was really about the two goaltenders. Hasek and Devils rookie Martin Brodeur became stars that season, but no one had any idea at the time both would become legends of the game.
"It was my first season where I really broke in," Hasek said. "I won the Vezina Trophy that year and that was the first big one for me. ... It was Game 6 in our building. If you lose, you're eliminated and it was a huge game for both teams.
"To be honest, I just knew I had a very good young goalie against me who had a great season and was tough to beat in that series. But I had no idea what would happen and it's amazing to think we would both be in the Hall of Fame."
Ask Brodeur about the game and you see his eyes light up and a smile cross his face. And remember, he lost.
"It's still one of my favorite games, my favorite stories I like to tell," Brodeur said in November when asked to reminisce by The News before his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. "This is something special. Four overtime periods. Two games of hockey without a goal in the playoffs. They were playing for their lives. If we win, they go home. Next thing you know it's 1 o'clock in the morning and you're thinking, 'All right, something's gotta give.' I guess that night, I did."
Hasek's 70 saves remain the most in a playoff shutout and are fourth all-time in a postseason game, three shy of the record 73 made by Kelly Hrudey of the New York Islanders in a four-OT win at Washington in 1987.
"We all knew Dom was phenomenal that night, every period," Hannan said last week by phone from Pittsburgh, where he's worked in medical sales the last 19 years. "And so was Brodeur. As you get longer into it, your intensity is still there. You want to be on the winning side so bad. Faceoffs and shift length and even dump-ins become more important.
"No one had any clue how that game would end up going that long. We needed a win to go to Game 7 and we knew what we had to do."
Hasek, then 29, led the NHL during the 1993-94 regular season with a 1.95 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and seven shutouts. Brodeur's numbers were mere mortal at 2.40, .915 and three shutouts. When the game was played, he was a week away from turning 22.
Hasek won 30 games that season in his first full campaign from Buffalo after being acquired in a 1992 trade with Chicago. He took the crease from Grant Fuhr and owned it through 2002 in a run unprecedented in franchise history.
"Over time, if I liked something about Dominik Hasek, I would go back in practice with my goalie coach and work at it," Brodeur said. "If I thought it would help me, I would put it in my game. That's how highly I thought of him."
"It didn't take very long for me to say that Dom was the best goalie I ever saw while he was in a Buffalo uniform," Jeanneret said last week. "Best I ever saw play the game. Dominik Hasek. Definitely. Not only because he was so erratic and radical in his style but because he was so successful. And to get 70 saves for a shutout in a playoff game? I would think that would stand for a loooong time."
Setting the scene
The Devils finished the regular season second in the Atlantic and third in the East with 106 points. The Sabres, who swept a first-round series the previous year on Brad May's famous overtime goal against Boston, were fourth in the Northeast and sixth in the East with 95 points.
The Sabres were down in the series, three games to two, as the teams split two games at Brendan Byrne Arena (Hasek pitched a 2-0 shutout in Game 1) and two more at the Aud. New Jersey took the upper hand with a 5-3 win in Game 5 on home ice. Through five games, the teams had scored just 12 goals apiece.
Game 6 is currently the 11th-longest in NHL playoff history. When Hannan scored, it was No. 6. Since then, five games have gone longer.
Hannan: The Aud was great. I enjoyed playing there so much. It was intimate, the fans were on top of you and the Buffalo fans were so awesome. I had won a Cup in Edmonton and we had the firepower and the goaltending to do it there. We lost four straight to a Montreal team that ended up winning the Cup (in 1993) and that stretch was one of the best teams I ever played on.
Sabres winger Jason Dawe: We lose, we're done. We all knew that. As the game went along, it was hard to believe, but we were having a good time with it. We didn't know where it was in the record books, but we had an idea it was kind of up there and might be there for a long, long time.
Hasek: It's a long time ago and you forget saves after so many years. I still remember one save I made before the overtimes, a 2-on-1 on [Stephane] Richer. I made a save with the pad, spread myself left. There was probably half the net open. He made a quick shot and that's the one I remember.
Dawe: Dom was just out of his mind. There was not one guy on the roster giving up at all because of him.
Sabres forward Rob Ray: It was kind of a coming-out party for both of the goalies on a big stage. With the attention that game got, it was the two of them who were the stars of it. Dom said after the game he might have had another period or so in him. We didn't have to find out.
Nobody left the building it seemed. The fans knew how big it was, how important it was, and how exciting it was. It was a good game. It wasn't just a normal Jersey game, trap, trap, trap. It was an exciting game even for 0-0.
As night turns into morning
The Sabres had two goals called back during regulation, one for goalie interference on Dawe, the other for a kick by Wayne Presley. Hasek made a huge save in overtime on Bobby Holik and two others on Valeri Zelupukin, and got lucky in the second OT when Dale Hawerchuk nearly tipped a New Jersey pass by his own goalie but the puck hit the post. As the intermissions piled up, the dressing rooms became more chaotic.
Hasek: I was getting hungry. I asked for a piece of bread. I just felt like I needed to eat something. Have some juice, have something in my stomach.
Hannan: We're not really saying anything to Dom. He's in his own world but he knew we were still there. He just kept saying to keep getting the puck on net and not to turn down a chance to fire it there. It was laser focus. Taking your undergarments off. Guys took skates off, dried gloves.
Ray: I had ordered food for post-game because you always had to buy your own back then. I was in the back room with the trainers eating wings and pizza in there because I was done in the game and I started to feel guilty so I took it out to the guys. They're scrambling to find bread or whatever just to get something in their stomachs. So I was like, 'Hey guys, a little bonus here, let's go. Pizza.'
Dawe: Pizzas coming in the dressing room during intermissions. How old school is that, right? I remember Razor doing it. It was from La Nova. Always was.
Hannan: I don't like to eat a lot. It was sort of bizarre when food started coming in. ... It was cool, but you're still intense going out there.
Brodeur: Bernie Nicholls (a Devils veteran who was a scratch) came in after regulation and he said, "Marty, if you don't get scored on this period, for sure we're gonna win." After the first overtime, he comes in again and says, "Marty, I'm telling you. If you don't get scored on, we're going to win." After the second, again. He says, "All right, I was messing around. If you don't get scored on now, we're going to win." He comes back after the third and he goes, "Marty, you're on your own."
Ray: I got my last shift in the second period of the regular game, but I ended up getting a 10-minute misconduct coming out for the second overtime. Ken Danyeko and I got into it, both coming from the same end of the Aud on to the ice. Started yelling. Ref nailed me.
I got out of that and it's like 1 in the morning and I'm standing behind the bench with the coaches because I felt bad taking a spot on the bench. I look at 'Mucks' [coach John Muckler] and I go, 'Hey look, I usually do my best work this time of night. Why don't you give me a shot?' He looks at me and goes, 'Not tonight you're not." Never used me.
Dawe: You look up in the stands, you see people sleeping. It was crazy. But the competitiveness of you as an athlete, you just keep going. You're not going to give up as tired as you are. And thankfully most of us were young enough to not feel a lot.
At the start of the fourth overtime, the Empire Sports Network camera zoomed in on the "Period" line on the old Aud scoreboard. It read "7." No one knew that box could actually go that high. The Sabres finally made a breakthrough when Dawe worked the puck into the Devils zone and the puck deflected off the skate of Zelepukin – right to a charging Hannan.
Dawe: I was trying to go wide on Bruce Driver, but he was so strong. I tried to take the puck to the net and it didn't work out. And then I threw a "hope play" honestly to the front of the net and it popped out. It it wasn't for Dave Hannan, Philippe Boucher was there too to put the puck in the net but Hanner grabbed the puck and put it in.
Hannan: It happened so fast. Jason was in on the forecheck and there's a loose puck that comes out right in front of the net. I'm the high guy so I circled back and saw it coming. I was quick and just got it. Philippe Boucher was right behind me ready to hammer it because he was a right-hand shot. But I just got it and flung it. Boom, it goes in. Crazy.
Brodeur: I was really tired. The guy made the pass (Dawe) and I kind of went across, Hannan grabbed it and I kind of lost my balance and went 'heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' (mimicking a jump up). I couldn't get to the puck and he scored.
Hasek: I still remember exactly the backhand Dave Hannan shot. Marty Brodeur was a little out of position, but he jumped in at it and his glove was so close. There wasn't much room, right under the crossbar. I wasn't even sure the puck was in right away. He made a big effort to make a save. I still remember pictures of him jumping at it, but that shot was better than him this one time.
Hannan dropped to his knees and slid down the ice, with teammates catching up to him at center ice. The celebration was huge in the broadcast booth as well as Jeanneret, in his words, "hit the high notes" that night on WGR Radio.
Hannan: You don't know what you're gonna do. I just sprinted down and the whole feeling was, 'Yes, we're going to Game 7.' We did it for the fans. We saw young kids in the stands sleeping. It got us to Game 7 and it gave us a chance to win the series.
Jeanneret's goal call: Dawe charging after it. Cleared it right out in front. Backhand by Hannan. He scooooooooooooores! Dave Hannan! Dave Hannan is mobbed by his teammates. Dave Hannan finally put away the backhand and this series is going back to where Jimmy Hoffa is – back to the Meadowlands of New Jersey! After 5 minutes and 43 seconds of overtime in the FOURTH overtime period, the Buffalo Sabres get on the board!
Jeanneret: I had no idea what I was going to say next. I was thinking, "Oh my God, it's the middle of the night. They finally scored. Let's get out of this and find something to say." I don't even know why but I did. The next day I'm in the cab in New Jersey and they're replaying the hell out of it on the radio with Howard Stern. It had the Jimmy Hoffa thing going for it.
Dawe: It was big-time celebration. We were all numb but we weren't just glad it was over. You were still in the moment thinking, 'Holy cow, we're going to Jersey to play Game 7 and this gave us that chance.' That was our mentality. You're young, you have adrenalin and you're thrilled by the win.
Jeanneret: I had to go to the bathroom. Big time. I was holding it in and toe-tapping quite a bit. Don't forget, there was no washroom up there. I had sweet-talked the security guard at the suites at the end of the Aud to let me in there. He used to let me sneak in there because I wasn't supposed to. But you go out at the end of the period into the washroom in the Oranges there and you're lined up into the hall. Time is my enemy so I can't do that. I might have been the happiest guy in the building they scored.
Dawe: That's RJ for you. How do you come up with something like that? He's one of the greatest ever. Some of the stuff he pulls out of his hat is incredible. And he had to pee? Hilarious. Just a legend.
Hannan: I remember the dressing room. Dale Hawerchuk and Dom were all keeping us focused. We knew we had one more to go. The message was "The plane leaves at 3 o'clock tomorrow. Get as much fluid as you can, get some food in you. We got through that one and let's get to New Jersey."
The banner headline in the Buffalo News sports section the next afternoon simply had the linescore with no words:
Devils 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0
Sabres 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 1
Hannan became an instant celebrity in town and got a radio show for the next year on WGR with "The Coach," former Bills defensive line coach Chuck Dickerson.
The Sabres went to New Jersey for Game 7 and suffered a 2-1 loss in a game that saw Hasek stand on his head after the Devils outshot Buffalo, 46-18. Boucher scored in the first period and Hannan had a great chance in tight that Brodeur stopped to keep Buffalo from forging a two-goal lead.
The Devils got a power-play goal from Bruce Driver with Hannan in the box for tripping to tie the score after 20 minutes and end Hasek's shutout streak at 150 minutes, 5 seconds. The game winner from Claude Lemieux came in the second period.
Dawe: TSN met us at the hotel the next day in Jersey. It was a huge, huge story among the hockey world. You try to get as much sleep as you could. Get a lot of fluids in you and try to give it the best effort in Game 7.
Hannan: The coach was always fired up. I think he learned hockey on the go. Didn't know much about it and learned with John Muckler. Great guy. I went in the studio a couple times and I enjoyed it. It's amazing the people that listened.
Dawe: Hannan is one of the greatest guys ever. Whatever came out of that goal for him was awesome. It's certainly one of the biggest moments in Sabres history.
Hannan: It was tough to lose Game 7. I know I had a great chance across the crease and Brodeur made a great save then. It could have gone either way. They were a big strong, defensive team that was really focused on trapping and doing the necessary thing to lead to turnovers.
Hasek: That was disappointing. We came so close and next game we lost, 2-1. Marty made a great save on Dale Hawerchuk toward the end of the game. To make 70 saves and then lose, at the end of the day you almost feel it didn't mean so much.
Jeanneret: Even though they lost the series, you still remember that team for winning in four overtimes. It's a night that's difficult to look back on and remember everything that happened because it was so damn long – and I was so damn tired at the end. Now, I'm tired. Imagine how the players felt.
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) April 26, 2019