April 11, 1990
Bedlam enveloped the Winnipeg Arena last night as Dave Ellett's shot from the point beat Edmonton Oilers goaltender Bill Ranford early in the second overtime period. Fans, all but a handful dressed in white, reveled in the dramatic victory. Even after the players left the ice, the fans kept cheering, wanting to preserve this moment as long as possible. After taking a commanding three games to one series lead, could this actually be the year the Jets finally beat the Oilers in a playoff series? More than 15,000 in attendance in the Arena certainly would have thought so.
However, the players in the victors' locker room aren't among the 15,000.
Once the initial euphoria of the victory died down, the harsh reality of where they were hit home.
“I can't believe we're one game away from sending the Oilers out,” said Jets captain Thomas Steen in the middle of a suddenly somber Jets dressing room.
“It's nice to win games, but we just can't leave ourselves this small of a margin for error,” explained Jets coach Bob Murdoch, a leading contender for the Jack Adams Award. “We just can't make the Oilers work this hard to beat us. We just can't afford to win another game. It's just that simple. We've just got to find a way to lose the remaining three games of this series. Nothing else is acceptable. I feel embarrassed that we've pushed the Oilers this far. That's my job, and I take full responsibility for this situation.”
The mood was much the same in the Oilers dressing room, though coach John Muckler expressed more surprise than disappointment, “The Jets were certainly the better team tonight and deserved to win, but we still can't believe we're down 3-1. We didn't think the Jets needed to be reminded who they're playing. I guess they do after all.”
The Jets took an early lead, only to lose it as the Oilers tied the game and also took out Jets goaltender Bob Essensa as Glenn Anderson bowled into the net, successfully knocking Essensa out of the contest. Though the hometown fans were irate, Essensa, despite being the victim of yet another vicious attack initiated by Anderson, said, “I hope Mr. Anderson wasn't injured in trying to take me out of the game. I really should have let in a couple of more goals so that he didn't have to resort to that stuff. It's really my fault, I take full blame for it.”
The game-winning goal was set up by a penalty on Oilers defenseman Reijo Ruotsalainen, who hauled down Steen on a partial breakaway. Steen argued with the referee that no penalty should have been called on the play, but to no avail. “Once we got the faceoff in their end with the man advantage, it all went downhill from there. Dave got a clean shot from the point, and he had to shoot it. It went in, what can I say?” said Steen.
Dale Hawerchuk offered this opinion on the game, “It was an outstanding game. You always want to win, so it's hard to be disappointed, but this is as far as we can go. We just can't let this happen again. There are a lot of guys in this room who have been down that road before and we know what it takes. We've got to make it easier for the Oilers, we can't keep beating them. I'm confident that we'll respond to the occasion.”
The same determination that the Jets showed in taking the Oilers to the brink will surely be directed at bringing the same level of excitement to the crowd in Edmonton for Game 5 as they did to the Winnipeg Arena patrons in Game 4.
“You can count on it,” said Pat Elynuik.
On this, both the Oilers and Jets agree.