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From the archives | BRUINS 3, OILERS 3 (CANCELED)

The Bruins were in the game, then the lights went out

Steam rose from the ice after emergency lights came on in the Boston Garden.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the May 25, 1988, Boston Globe.

The lights went out on the Bruins last night at Boston Garden. What’s that? They were wiped out by the Edmonton Oilers in four straight games? No, no. The lights went out while the Bruins were giving the Oilers their biggest fight of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals, with their best playoff game since the Montreal series. A couple of 19-year-old defensemen, Glen Wesley and Greg Hawgood, had given the Bruins a spark to a 3-3 tie.

The power failure came after Edmonton tied the game on a goal by Craig Simpson at 16:37 of the second period.

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Because of the blackout, the game will be replayed in its entirety tomorrow night in Edmonton, and the rest of the series schedule has been revised accordingly: Game 5, if necessary, in Boston Saturday; Game 6 in Edmonton Monday; and Game 7 in Boston next Thursday.

With his team leading the series, 3-0, just one win away from its fourth Cup in five years, Wayne Gretzky knew “the Bruins are not going to lay down their sticks and hand us the game.”

He didn’t know he would be upstaged in the second period by Wesley. And neither he nor anyone else knew the game would be blacked out only an instant after Simpson tipped in Steve Smith’s left point shot on another Edmonton power play that shouldn’t have been. It was set up by a marginal holding call on Keith Crowder by referee Denis Morel — an infraction that hardly deserved a whistle. The Bruins were on the power play, and holding a 3-2 lead, and referees sometimes call those things.

Don’t blame Crowder. He was trying to dig the puck out of the left corner. He was being held by a defender, broke loose and then grabbed his opponent.

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Before the lights went out, Wesley had been the showstopper.

He scored two goals, one shorthanded, one on the power play, to pull Boston from a 2-1 deficit into the 3-2 lead.

“The fourth win is the hardest to get,” Gretzky had said. “We have to play this game as though we were down, 3-0.”

The Oilers started that way with an early goal, then connected on another five-on-three manpower advantage — their fourth of the playoffs.

But the Bruins wouldn’t quit.

Not when Glenn Anderson scored at 10 seconds — the fastest goal in Stanley Cup finals history. Not when Esa Tikkanen scored on the two-man advantage. And Wesley wouldn’t quit on Gretzky during an Oiler power play. This was the kind of play on which games can swing.

Gretzky had the puck a few feet inside the Boston blue line. He spun to his right and spun to his left, looking for a receiver. Wesley swung with him. Then Gretzky thought he had Wesley going the wrong way and tried to tap the puck by him. But Wesley had stayed with all of Gretzky’s moves and finally stopped Gretzky’s tap with his right skate, kicked the puck ahead and over the blue line and raced up the right side.

Defenseman Kevin Lowe came on in pursuit, and as Wesley went through the circle, he dragged the puck along on his stick to line up his shot. He fired from the middle of the circle, and goalie Grant Fuhr came charging out to make the stop. The rebound came back to Wesley at the bottom of the circle, and he put it in.

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A minute later, the Bruins had a power play and Wesley scored, moving in a little from the left point to skim a 45-footer along the ice and to Fuhr’s left.

Five times during the second period, the game was stopped to have players skate around to dissipate the fog that enshrouded the ice area.

Anderson scored after the puck moved from the opening faceoff back to Craig Muni at the blue line, ahead to Mark Messier at center ice and ahead to Anderson on the right. Gord Kluzak and Ken Linseman tried to sandwich him, but he was on the move and got off a shot from the bottom of the right circle that went between goalie Andy Moog’s skates.

Demoralizing? No, even though there was cause for such feelings.

Now Morel became a villain. The Oilers had barely started on a power play when he called Bourque for roughing Anderson as the left wing came across the crease trying to tip a Gretzky shot. The worst thing Bourque did was push him from behind and land on top of him, hardly a call worthy of the Stanley Cup finals.

It gave Edmonton a two-man advantage for 1 minute 52 seconds. Moog made two excellent saves before the Oilers scored. Then Gretzky and Tikkanen got to playing catch with the puck from the right circle (Tikkanen) to the high slot (Gretzky). Back and forth they went, each making two passes. On Gretzky’s third pass, Tikkanen cranked up a hard shot and drilled the puck through Moog’s feet.

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Demoralizing? Not yet.

Enter Hawgood, playing in his third NHL game, his first in the finals.

The Bruins had an attack going. Bill O’Dwyer, at the left of the goal, put a pick on an Edmonton defenseman so that Rick Middleton could get the puck near the circle. Middleton passed to the low slot, and Hawgood, who had broken there from the right point, made a great play.

The puck was on the heel of his stick. Instead of shooting in a frenzy, he stopped it, moved it to the sweet part of his blade, right in the middle, and whipped in a shot from 20 feet out.

It has been the strangest of playoffs.