Being an Oiler fan in 2003 was grim. Not as grim as being an Oiler fan in 2009, mind you. But back then, the past still loomed large. The fanbase wasn't used to failure yet. A decade removed from glory and faced with an annual humiliating playoff loss, Oiler fans took took two approaches -- anger or misery. I was the miserable sort. The Oilers had gone to the playoffs four times in the last five years and lost to the Dallas Stars all four times. None of them were close. Four series, sixteen Dallas wins, four Edmonton wins. The annual spring beating at the hands of the Stars became too much for me to handle. The Oilers would scratch and claw their way into the playoffs and Dallas would thump them onto the golf course. It was hopeless. When the Oilers didn't make the playoffs in 2001-2002, I can remember thinking of the positive - that they wouldn't have to lose to Dallas again.
I can remember this rush like it happened two minutes ago. Radek Dvorak picked up the puck in his end. He made a little stick fake at center as an opposing forward glided by. As he charged through the neutral zone, Eric Brewer skated in front of him, looking over his left shoulder. He weaved around Brewer and headed into the zone and Brewer's head swiveled over his right shoulder and watched the play. I dropped from my couch to the floor in front of the television. Devo deked inside on Matvichuk and quickly back to the carry the puck outside. Matvichuk changed his footing and Devo came back to the inside, completely corkscrewing Matvichuk as he fell away from the play, humorously flailing an attempted hook at Dvorak The puck ricocheted ever so slightly toward the corner and Devo grabbed it on the way through Zubov and found the back of the net to the far side behind Turco. I yelped and repeatedly pounded on the living room floor. It was a play and a goal of stunning beauty and brilliance, and the new guy, Dvorak, pulled it off. In my mind, Turco is still frozen in his split, looking down at his right pad and Zubov is completely stunned by a guy that didn't know he was supposed to lose to Dallas every year. It was breathtaking to see, and heartening. So heartening, in fact, that it gave me the hope back. Edmonton WAS going to steal these two games. Edmonton was going to win this series!