By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - The fourth longest game in National Hockey League (NHL) history was decided not by a laser-like shot, but by luck as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in a fifth overtime period.
“I just see a rolling puck and I just throw it on the net,” Lightning centre Brayden Point said after six hours and 13 minutes of hockey late Tuesday. That is more than two regular games.
“I am not really aiming, just sling one there and lucky enough it finds a corner,” the Canadian native said.
And that errant shot ended the marathon that was so long the Boston Bruins-Carolina Hurricanes slated to begin at 8 p.m. in Toronto (0000GMT) was postponed until Wednesday. The format for the Stanley Cup has all games played in Edmonton and Toronto with no fans because of to the coronavirus pandemic.
Records tumbled during the endurance test.
Most shots in a game, 151; most saves, 85, by goaltender Blue Jackets’ Joonas Korpisalo (from Finland); most time on the ice for an individual player, 65:06 minutes by Blue Jackets’ Seth Jones (American); most saves in Lightning franchise history, 61, by Andrei Vasilevsky (Russian).
The two teams play the second game in the opening round best-of-seven Thursday.
There are no viewership numbers for game but to get an idea of the popularity of hockey in Canada, 68% – more than 19.4 million – of Canadians watched the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2018. And viewers are not exclusively male – 48% were female.
Hockey is Canada’s national sport and it regards itself as the birthplace of the game.
Generations of Canadians grow up playing the game from childhood on any frozen surface from ice arenas to bays and rivers, ponds and backyard rinks.
It is the dream of many children to play in the NHL, and parents have that dream, too.
Nearly 43% or 295 of NHLers are Canadian. But the league is the best in the world and attracts players, in order of numbers, from the U.S., Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, Denmark, Germany and a few others. It is probably the most diverse sport in the world.
Small communities are so proud of producing NHL players that they erect signs naming them.
What are the favourite teams in Canada? It is neck-and-neck between the Toronto Maple Leafs (formed 1917) and the Montreal Canadiens (formed 1909). The NHL was formed in 1917.
The Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America and tenth in the world. It is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the 1892 Governor General of Canada.