TBT: Colorado Avalanche Beat Detroit Red Wings to Win Conference


The Colorado Avalanche once played spring hockey on a regular basis. Hells, they played summer hockey twice — and that’s more than a lot of teams in the NHL can say.

On May 29, 1996, the Colorado Avalanche beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final to win the conference and earn the right to play summer hockey. The epic game which eventually led to the first professional sports championship in Colorado took place in the now-defunct McNichols Arena.

Goalie Battle

Actually, the game wasn’t so much a goalie battle as a goalie school, with Patrick Roy showing Detroit goalie Chris Osgood why #33 would eventually be retired in two arenas and why Roy would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Roy was renowned as the most clutch of all playoff goalies. In this important Game 6, he faced 24 shots and turned away all but one. That may not seem like a lot of shots, but he was facing the likes of Paul Coffey (two shots), Vladimir Konstantinov (three shots), Nicklas Lidstrom (three shots) and Steve Yzerman (one shot).

Indeed, one of Roy’s most impressive saves came after he’d gone way out to move the puck, and it ended up right in front of the net — on the stick of Detroit defenseman Marc Bergevin. Bergevin had a wide open net, but amazingly Roy slid across the crease fast enough to make the save. When Roy was on, he was magical.

On the other end of the ice, Osgood faced only 22 shots, allowing four goals. Sure, Peter Forsberg alone took three shots, Sandis Ozolinsh two and Joe Sakic an impressive five, but still — four goals on 22 shots in a Game 6 elimination match.

Plus, Osgood wore that hybrid throwback that looked odd.

View image | gettyimages.com

Play of Infamy

Everybody loves to hate former Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux, and with good reason. He was a dirty player and a dark spot in Avalanche history.

Game 6 between the two teams is infamous for the Lemieux hit on Detroit forward Kris Draper. This was 1990s hockey at its ugliest. Lemieux completely blindsides Draper and forces his face into the boards in front of the Red Wings bench.

It is inexcusable. Lemieux was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct match penalty — in today’s NHL he’d have had an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety.

Draper suffered a broken jaw as well as a shattered cheek and orbital bone. His injuries not only required surgery, they kept him out of the game until the middle of the next season. Like I said, this was a dark spot on Avalanche history, and I’m not going to shy away from mentioning it.

A mark of Joe Sakic’s character is how he was being pushed down on top of Draper. Realizing how injured his opponent was, he clung to the boards and utilized all his thigh strength to avoid falling on Draper.

Big Plays of Game 6

That was just one play in an otherwise epic game. It was a night of the big-name guys having a big game for the Avalanche.

Avalanche captain Joe Sakic drew first blood off of a nifty play from Rene Corbet to Adam Deadmarsh. Sakic made it look so easy, just shooting from outside the hash marks. Easy peasy.

The lone Red Wing goal came during the Lemieux penatly. Future Hall of Famer Paul Coffey managed to sneak the puck past Roy to tie the game.

That may have felt like a bit of atonement for the Draper hit, but the Avs weren’t going to hang their heads in shame – the hit happened, Lemieux had been tossed, and there was a hockey game to win.

Sakic scored his second of the night off of a sniper’s pass from Valeri Kamensky. He moved down the side, cut in and shot from above the slot hard enough to beat Osgood clean.

Big names had a hand in the third Avalanche goal as well. Sandis Ozolinsh passed the puck right to Joe Sakic, who pert-near earned a hat trick with his slap shot. However, he got the rebound, which went straight to the toothless wonder, Mike Ricci. Remember that old #9? Well, he poked that puck right past Osgood.

The nail in the coffin came off of our dear Foppa’s stick, Peter Forsberg. You kind of get the feeling he was getting tired of seeing everyone else having all the fun and decided to take matters into his own hands. He stole the puck from Coffey, scooted into the offensive zone, dangles past two Red Wings and wristed the puck on in.

Detroit came on like gangbusters, but Patrick Roy showed his magic. It didn’t matter what the Red Wings threw at him, he was equal to the task.

In the end, the Colorado Avalanche made one more step in their march to the Stanley Cup, a 4-1 win over the hated Detroit Red Wings.

Watch the highlights in terrible 1990s analogue:

Next: TBT: Detroit's Shanny a Goon in Playoffs

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