Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Calgary Flames - 1989
One on One Turning Point

Turning Point - Calgary Flames - 1989
Mike Vernon of the Calgary Flames looks on during 1989 Stanley Cup Final action against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum in Montreal, QC. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Calgary Flames had utilized a defensive-oriented system through the course of the regular season, and cut their goals against substantially from the previous season. With goaltenders Mike Vernon and Rick Wamsley playing outstanding in net, the team allowed 79 fewer goals in 1988-89 than they did in 1987-88.

In the opening round of the playoffs, the Flames met the Vancouver Canucks, a Smythe Division team that finished 43 points behind Calgary during the regular season. Vancouver won Game One early in overtime, with former Flame Paul Reinhart scoring the winning goal on a wrist shot over Mike Vernon's shoulder.

Calgary rebounded with back-to-back wins - 5-2 and 4-0. Vancouver fought back in Game Four, forcing Calgary to take penalties, and scored four powerplay goals. Ahead 5-1, the Flames pulled Mike Vernon, substituting him with Rick Wamsley, and scored two, but fell short and the Canucks earned the win to even the series.

Four games in five nights was exhausting for both teams, but Calgary seemed to have more energy and blanked Vancouver 4-0 in Game Five.

Mike Vernon of the Calgary Flames makes the save against Bobby Smith of the Montreal Canadiens during 1989 Stanley Cup Final action at the Montreal Forum in Montreal, QC. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Vancouver staved off elimination, doubling the Flames 6-3 in Game Six to once again tie the series. The Canucks scored three goals in 2:18 of time in the second period and went into the third period with a 4-2 lead. In the third, after Calgary had scored, Vancouver battled back with a breakaway tally from Brian Bradley to make the score 5-3. An empty net goal gave Vancouver a 6-3 win and a tie in the series.

Game Seven, hosted by Calgary, was bitterly contested with advancement on the line, and after sixty minutes, the teams were deadlocked with three goals apiece. The overtime pace was furious. Vernon, who had been spectacular, had to come up big again, robbing Petri Skriko with a skate save. Vancouver's Stan Smyl tried a wraparound that had beat the Calgary netminder, but the puck hit the far post. Smyl was haunting the Flames. On a bad change, Mike Vernon faced Stan Smyl barreling in towards the goal on a breakaway. Smyl saw his spot and fired, but Vernon threw out his glove and made a sensational stop that has been tagged "the save that won the Cup." He made another glove save on an attempt by Tony Tanti. Kirk McLean was equally strong, robbing Joey Mullen in close with a last-minute goal-line save. Another puck crossed the goal-line but was ruled "no goal" because the net had been dislodged.

With under a minute to go in the first overtime period, Jim Peplinski shot from well out, but the harmless attempt deflected off linemate Joel Otto's skate and eluded Kirk McLean to give Calgary the victory.

"It was a very tough round against Vancouver, but we dodged a bullet," admitted Doug Gilmour. David had almost defeated Goliath, but the Flames won the series and were able to move on. "After that, it was a little easier. We beat L.A. in four and then we beat Chicago in five and Montreal in six to win the Stanley Cup. To have the opportunity to win in Montreal at the Forum was pretty amazing."

It took an intense series win over Vancouver in the first round, the turning point in that season for Calgary, for the Flames' franchise to go on capture its first Stanley Cup championship.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.