The Road to the Stanley Cup 1991

At the start of the 1990-91 season it's fair to say that no one expected the North Stars would be playing hockey in May. The season opener saw only 5,730 fans in attendance. To make matters worse, the team got off to rough start by going 3-9-3 in their first ten games. The media was apathetic. Even Norm Green's money give-aways couldn't get enough fans into the building.

But, the situation was about to change. The North Stars new General Manager, Bob Clarke, bolstered the defense by trading offensive minded defensemen, Larry Murphy, to Pittsburgh for defensive minded Jim Johnson and Chris Dalquist. Center Marc Bureau would also contribute in the defensive zone after he was picked up from Calgary.

Things started to be come together from all sides. Ulf Dahlen, the man who was traded for long time fan favorite, Dino Ciccerelli, had contributed little in the first half of the season. But, suddenly, Ulf started scoring. He tallied 19 of his 21 goals in the last 42 games, including a hat trick against Detroit late in the season.

Perhaps it was the influence of first year coach, Bob Gainey that was finally started to rub off. For whatever reason it might have been, the team was visibly playing better hockey. From late January until March 17th the Stars went 14-6-6. By the time the playoffs started everybody felt more confident about their chances.


The Stars first opponent was their dreaded rival Chicago, who had not only won the Norris division, but the league title as well. The Stars played with a high degree of discipline and were deadly on the powerplay. In Game Five the Hawks displayed their frustration with their style by taking a number of foolish penalties. The Stars capitalized on their chances and humiliated the Hawks 6-0 in Chicago Stadium. Two nights later it was all over. Minnesota had become the first team in twenty years to upset a top ranked club in the first round.

St. Louis

Another old rival, the St. Louis Blues became their next opponent. The Blues had finished the season with the 2nd best record in the league. Brett Hull and Adam Oates had combined for over 240 points in the season. But, the Stars played the same discipline style that worked with Chicago. Gatean Duchesne and Stewart Gavin kept Hull and Oates in check. The aggressive play of Mark Tinordi was effective at both ends of the ice. Once again the Stars closed out a series on a heavily favored opponent in six games.

North Stars send Blues packing


Minnesota had defeated the number one and two teams in the league and now the defending Stanley Cup champions stood in their way. Like the previous series the Stars made the most of their opportunities by turning powerplays into goals, goals into leads and leads into wins. Jon Casey was outstanding. At the conclusion of the series he would record an amazing .991 save percentage.

The turning point may have been Game Three where the Stars used speed and skill to their advantage. Bellows and Modano each scored breakaway goals on the way to a 7-3 route. Minnesota's victory was so impressive that it prompted Oilers owner, Peter Pocklington to remark, "they play like we used to play."

"I have been in seven Stanley Cup finals as a player and a manager. There has never been anything like this. Never anything close."... Bob Clarke

Game Five in Edmonton was a close contest. With the game tied at two apiece early in the third Stewart Gavin carried the puck into the Oilers zone and fed a breaking Bobby Smith whose long reach stretched around a frozen Grant Fuhr for what would become the winning goal. The North Stars had shocked the hockey world by advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history.

Brian Bellows and some bonehead with the Clarence Campbell Trophy.


For the first time in 57 years the Stanley Cup would be contested by two teams that had never won it. The Stars opened the series like they had done in their past three by winning Game One 5-4. The next game the Penguins got revenge and won 4-1. This game saw Mario Lemieux score a goal that will probably live on forever in highlight films. On a dazzling solo effort he danced around two North Star defensmen and then tucked it past Casey just before falling to the ice.

The North Stars were welcomed home by 15,378 cheering Minnesota fans for Game Three. Unfortunately for the Pens they would take the ice without Mario. He had strained his back tying his skates in the locker room just before the game. Dave Gagner and Bobby Smith scored 23 seconds apart in the second period. The Stars won 3-1 and took the lead in the series two games to one. Many fans begin to ask, could this be really be happening? Destiny did seem to control this Cinderella team.

Game Two action

Lemieux was back for Game Four. The Penguins started quickly by scoring three goals in the first three minutes of the game. Around the half way point of the game Trottier scored to give the Penguins a commanding 4-1 lead. But, the Stars battled back. Mike Modano scored on the powerplay just before the 2nd period ended to make it 4-3. The Stars received numerous chances to tie the game including a missed doorstep put-away by Neal Broten late in the game. But, the Penguins somehow held on and escaped Minnesota with a 5-3 victory.

Game Five was more of the same. The Pens started off quickly and the Stars were left playing catch up. Former North Star, Larry Murphy, finished with four assists and Mark Recchi got a pair as the Penguins skated to a 6-4 victory.

Anybody who had witnessed Game Six would tell you it was hard to watch. The Penguin's found the back of the net early and often. The North Stars could not respond. They simply ran out of gas and were were coldly handed a 8-0 defeat. Captain Mario Lemieux was on hand to receive the Stanley Cup trophy from NHL president John Zeigler while the fans of Minnesota respectfully applauded the new champions.

Although Mario had been their leader throughout the playoffs, the play of Recchi, Francis, Stevens, Coffey and Jagr were clear proof that this team was much more than a one man show. The beaten North Stars would win the respect of the league and the loyalty of their fans. "Remember Minnesota in 1991," may be the phrase used to motivate underdog hockey teams for many years to come.

Series Results

                        Division Semi-finals

  New Jersey 3 at Pittsburgh 1        North Stars  4 at Chicago     3*
  New Jersey 4 at Pittsburgh 5        North Stars  2 at Chicago     5
  Pittsburgh 4 at New Jersey 3        Chicago      6 at North Stars 5
  Pittsburgh 1 at New Jersey 4        Chicago      1 at North Stars 3
  New Jersey 4 at Pittsburgh 2        Minnesota    6 at Chicago     0
  Pittsburgh 4 at New Jersey 3        Chicago      1 at North Stars 3
  New Jersey 0 at Pittsburgh 4         (North Stars win 4-2)
   (Pittsburgh wins 4-3)
                                      Detroit   6 at St. Louis 3
  Buffalo  5 at Montreal 7            Detroit   2 at St. Louis 4
  Buffalo  4 at Montreal 5            St. Louis 2 at Detroit   5
  Montreal 4 at Buffalo  6            St. Louis 3 at Detroit   4
  Buffalo  3 at Montreal 4*           Detroit   1 at St. Louis 6
  Montreal 5 at Buffalo  1            St. Louis 3 at Detroit   0
   (Montreal wins 4-1)                Detroit   2 at St. Louis 3
                                       (St. Louis wins 4-3)
  Washington 1 at Rangers    2
  Washington 3 at Rangers    0        Vancouver   6 at Los Angeles 5
  Rangers    6 at Washington 0        Vancouver   2 at Los Angeles 3*
  Rangers    2 at Washington 3        Los Angeles 1 at Vancouver   2*
  Washington 5 at Rangers    4 *      Los Angeles 6 at Vancouver   1
  Rangers    2 at Washington 4        Vancouver   4 at Los Angeles 7
   (Washington wins 4-1)              Los Angeles 4 at Vancouver   1
                                       (LA wins 4-2)
  Hartford 5 at Boston   2
  Hartford 3 at Boston   4            Edmonton 3 at Calgary  1
  Boston   6 at Hartford 3            Edmonton 1 at Calgary  3
  Boston   3 at Hartford 4            Calgary  3 at Edmonton 4
  Hartford 1 at Boston   6            Calgary  2 at Edmonton 5
  Boston   3 at Hartford 1            Edmonton 3 at Calgary  5
   (Boston wins 4-2)                  Calgary  2 at Edmonton 1*
                                      Edmonton 5 at Calgary  4*
                                        (Edmonton wins 4-3)

                          Division Finals

  Washington 4 at Pittsburgh 2        North Stars 2 at St. Louis 1
  Washington 6 at Pittsburgh 7*       North Stars 2 at St. Louis 5
  Pittsburgh 3 at Washington 1        St. Louis   1 at Minnesota 5
  Pittsburgh 3 at Washington 1        St. Louis   4 at Minnesota 8
  Washington 1 at Pittsburgh 4        North Stars 2 at St. Louis 4
    (Pittsburgh wins 4-1)             St. Louis   2 at Minnesota 3
                                       (North Stars win 4-2)
  Montreal 1 at Boston   2
  Montreal 4 at Boston   3*           Edmonton    3 at Los Angeles 4*
  Boston   3 at Montreal 2            Edmonton    4 at Los Angeles 3**
  Boston   2 at Montreal 6            Los Angeles 3 at Edmonton    4**
  Montreal 1 at Boston   4            Los Angeles 2 at Edmonton    4
  Boston   2 at Montreal 3*           Edmonton    2 at Los Angeles 5
  Montreal 1 at Boston   2            Los Angeles 3 at Edmonton    4*
   (Boston wins 4-3)                   (Edmonton wins 4-2)


  Pittsburgh 3 at Boston     6        North Stars 3 at Edmonton    1
  Pittsburgh 4 at Boston     5*       North Stars 2 at Edmonton    7
  Boston     1 at Pittsburgh 4        Edmonton    3 at North Stars 7
  Boston     1 at Pittsburgh 4        Edmonton    1 at North Stars 5
  Pittsburgh 7 at Boston     2        North Stars 3 at Edmonton    2
  Boston     3 at Pittsburgh 5          (North Stars win 4-1)
   (Pittsburgh wins 4-2)

                    North Stars 5 at Pittsburgh  4
                    North Stars 1 at Pittsburgh  4
                    Pittsburgh  1 at North Stars 3
                    Pittsburgh  5 at North Stars 3
                    North Stars 4 at Pittsburgh  6
                    Pittsburgh  8 at North Stars 0
                       (Pittsburgh wins 4-2)