EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Stanley Cup was in the building, and the Dallas Stars weren't about to let go of it -- no matter how long it took.
Mike Modano deflected in Brett Hull's shot at 6:21 of the third overtime, ending what was the longest scoreless overtime game in Stanley Cup finals history as the Stars staved off elimination by beating the New Jersey Devils 1-0 in Game 5 Thursday night.
Hull threw the Stars' 41st shot of the game on the net from along the right wing boards and Modano, who hadn't scored a goal in the finals, pushed it between Martin Brodeur's pads.
After the goal, Brodeur stood motionless in the crease, his head bowed and the puck sitting in the middle of the net.
''Modano was flying through the middle, going to the net,'' Brodeur said. ''He hit it in midair and it went between my legs. They're so high now, they've got hope and we've got to regroup.''
A third overtime in the finals. The Stars. Brett Hull. The Devils, who took a 3-1 series lead into the game, should have known better than to try to win the Stanley Cup this way.
''We know this feeling of endurance tests,'' Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said.
The Stars won the Stanley Cup with Hull's third overtime goal in Game 6 against Buffalo last year, and this time kept from losing the cup by beating New Jersey in a third overtime.
Game 6 will be Saturday night in Dallas, where the Devils seized their 3-1 lead by winning twice. Now, it's a very precarious 3-2 lead.
''We do have a cushion -- a little bit,'' Devils coach Larry Robinson said.
Modano said, ''We felt if we won tonight, we'd be coming back here Monday night (for Game 7). That was our whole train of thought going into tonight. It's a once in a lifetime game when you're playing overtime in an elimination game.''
Hull sensed the Stars getting more chances the longer the overtimes went.
''As the game gets long and people get tired, if you stick to the game plan, you can find some room,'' Hull said. ''People are tired and playing safe.''
It was the fourth longest Stanley Cup finals game ever and, early in the third overtime, became the longest scoreless overtime finals game. Colorado beat Florida 1-0 on Uwe Krupp's goal at 4:31 of the third overtime to complete a four-game sweep in 1996.
''It's great. We're running on fumes right now,'' Modano said. ''This was a big winner. We're lucky we're going to see Saturday.''
The goal ended a duel between two of the NHL's best big-game goaltenders, the Devils' Brodeur and the Stars' Ed Belfour, both of whom have Stanley Cup rings.
Belfour, rebounding from a three-goal third period in a 3-1 loss in Game 4, made 48 saves. Brodeur made 40, but couldn't make the 41st.
''Eddie and Marty, to be honest, I don't think I've seen anything better since I've been in the league,'' Hitchcock said. ''I thought we would have to take a timeout and probably finish next week. I didn't think anyone would score.''
Belfour, who tied a record held by eight others with his fourth shutout in these playoffs, said, ''This is the best game I played since I made 75 saves as a kid.''
Brodeur began his post-game news conference by saying, ''Good morning,'' reflecting the 1:13 a.m. EDT finish.
''The fans certainly got their money's worth,'' Devils defenseman Scott Stevens said. ''Both of these goalies were unbelievable.''
The Devils, the first ever to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the conference finals, now are trying to avoid being the second team to lose a 3-1 lead in the finals.
The only team to accomplish it among the 25 that tried was Toronto, which won the final four games against Detroit in 1942 after falling behind 3-0.
''I'm not thinking about that,'' Stevens said. ''I'm thinking about being up 3-2, and that's not a bad position to be in.''
The Stars are the third team in the last 19 years to keep from losing in a potential elimination game. Vancouver the last to do it, did so twice against the Rangers in 1994 before losing Game 7.
New Jersey has never lost any of the three playoff series it led 3-1 and Dallas has never won any of the eight it has trailed, never once forcing a single Game 7.
So far, there has been a road team advantage in the finals, with the Stars winning two of three in New Jersey and the Devils winning both games in Dallas.
The Devils, who talked repeatedly on Tuesday and Wednesday of the necessity of not letting Dallas get back into the series, lost for the second time in seven games since falling behind Philadelphia 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals.
The long game helped make a pumped-up crowd -- one of the few such the Devils have played before at home this season -- less of a factor. There were gaps of empty seats as midnight passed in the second overtime, as even the possibility of a Stanley Cup presentation couldn't keep some sleepy fans from leaving.
As might have been expected in so important a game from two teams that have perfected the offense-stifling neutral zone trap, there was no scoring in regulation. That doesn't mean there weren't scoring chances.
Bobby Holik had two of the best for New Jersey. He hit the right post on an unguarded shot from the right circle midway through the second period, then missed wide of the net on a power play resulting from Jere Lehtinen's high-sticking penalty.
''He had six goals that could have gone in,'' Robinson said.
New Jersey also held off a Stars power-play flurry a few minutes before, with Brodeur stacking his pads to turn aside a Lehtinen shot from the slot.
Brodeur's wife, Melanie, was so worried she covered her eyes with one of the white towels handed out to the sellout crowd of 19,040. She opened them just in time to watch her husband make the save, and frantically jumped out of her seat to cheer.
The Stars had the best chances in the third, with Brodeur flopping to ice to stop Modano, and Lehtinen firing wide on a slick setup by Hull with about eight minutes left.
Holik's bad luck -- and bad shooting -- continued in the overtime, as he continued to get more good scoring chances than any other Devils player, but still couldn't convert.
The overtime was the Devils' first in the playoffs this season. They were within one game of the tying the 1991 North Stars' record for most playoff games in a season without overtime (22).
It was only the eighth overtime game in the 2000 playoffs, a relatively low number -- but one was the five-overtime Flyers-Penguins game, the second-longest in NHL history.
The road team has now won the last 11 multiple-period overtime games.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.