What it was like to set up one of Lemieux’s greatest goals

Remember this absolutely beautiful goal from the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals? Mario Lemieux dekes through the entire North Stars team and slides it past goalie Jon Casey.

In game two of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final, Mario Lemieux scored one of the greatest goals in NHL history. Harry Neale described it as “One against the world,” but a few other Penguins played a part, including Lemieux’s long-time teammate, Phil Bourque.

When Phil Bourque hustled back into his own zone to gobble up a rebound off the pads of his goalie, Tom Barrasso, he didn’t see Mario Lemieux—he heard him. “You ask anybody who’s played with Mario about the yip, and they’ll know exactly what you mean,” Bourque says. “His yip was different than anybody else’s, and the quicker or louder he said it, the faster he needed the puck.”

This yip was loud. In response, Bourque did what any intelligent player would: He shovelled the puck to Lemieux as quickly as possible. “I knew it was never [a bad play to make]—a bad pass to a great player. If you look at that play, the pass is behind him,” Bourque says. “It’s not like this great outlet tape-to-tape that sprang Mario on the one-on-two. He had to reach back for it and never broke stride.”

Lemieux hit his own blueline in two strides, already in full flight. Entering the Minnesota zone with two men between him and the goalie, he ignored Neil Wilkinson and deked around Shawn Chambers in a fashion that the best ringer on your beer-league team can only dream of. A split second later, he eluded a poke-checking Jon Casey and slid the puck in on a backhand for his 13th of the playoffs. “Oh my heavens!” shouted Bob Cole. “What a goal! What a move! Oh, baby!” Bourque got the assist, but his contribution has become an afterthought. “I remember being on my way to the bench watching his shake and bake and twisting a couple of defenceman around and saying, ‘Holy crap. Look out,’” Bourque says. “I don’t know if I even got a plus or not, because I was actually on the bench in complete disbelief, high-fiving my teammates, when Mario was doing his patented fist pump. You knew right away that you just witnessed one of the greatest goals in the history of the game.”

There’s a plaque in the CONSOL Energy Center commemorating the goal. Bourque gives thanks to Penguins VP of communications Tom McMillan for the fact that it notes his assist. “A lot of people have come up to me and said, ‘I didn’t know that you passed the puck to Mario on that incredible goal against Minnesota,’” Bourque says. “And I make sure I tell them the story the way I told you: ‘Hey, listen, it wasn’t a great pass. I just knew if you threw it in Mario’s area code, he was going to get it.’”

This article appears in the June 2016 issue of Sportsnet magazine.