Photo Credit: NHL

By Zane Miller

On Tuesday, February 24th, 2004, the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders played to 0-0 tie at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, putting the Islanders at an overall record of 29-31-2 while the Bruins went to a similar 30-28-6 overall showing. However, little did either side know that this game would become historic, as this is the last scoreless tie in the National Hockey League to date.

After a somewhat disappointing 2002-03 season which saw them finish with a losing record and be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, the Islanders were looking to improve, starting with moving previous starting goaltender Garth Snow to a backup role while newcomer Rick DiPietro took over as the starter for 2003-04.

DiPietro entered the fray for the Islanders under controversial circumstances to put it mildly, as he was drafted with the first overall pick in 2000 despite the team just having drafted goaltender Roberto Luongo with a top-five pick just three years earlier. In case you’re wondering who won that deal, Luongo went on to win nearly 500 games for teams not named the Islanders and was a first-ballot inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame, while Islanders general manager Mike Milbury was fired after the 2005-06 season. Regardless, after spending his first three years in the organization building up his game with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, DiPietro was having a successful rookie season heading into the matchup against Boston with a record of 15-11-4, a .914 save percentage and two shutouts.

As for the Bruins, their 2002-03 campaign also featured a roughly average regular season record and first-round playoff exit, with their 2003-04 season playing out similarly as they traveled to Long Island. Still, the Bruins remained in playoff contention thanks in large part to the emergence of rookie goaltender Andrew Raycroft, though he would have the night off as he had just faced 32 shots in a game against the Florida Panthers the night before. Instead, Boston would trust its net to veteran backup Felix Potvin, who had briefly played for the Islanders earlier in his career and held a 9-7-5 record with an .897 save percentage and three shutouts to this point in the season.

Before the Bruins-Islanders matchup could even have a chance to get underway, however, the fans and players would be forced to wait through a delay of an hour and a half due to ice quality issues around the Islanders’ goal crease. Reportedly, this was due to the Arena Football League’s New York Dragons playing a game two days before, in which they lost to the Dallas Desperados 56-44. The placement of the field apparently caused the ice underneath to soften, leading to the Zamboni inadvertently digging into the goal crease area. This led to an unconventional warmup period for the Islanders, as the arena crew moved the net in front of the crease while putting up orange traffic cones around the area while waiting for the ice to refreeze following repairs.

Despite the crew’s efforts, the crease still seemed to have some issues once play was able to begin, as DiPietro lost his footing at least once during the opening period. Other than that, however, the first frame was largely uneventful, as great defense from both teams kept the contest scoreless. The second period would be a different story, however, as the Bruins had a two-on-one scoring chance just six minutes in. As captain Joe Thornton passed to fellow forward Glen Murray, Murray followed with a one-timer which DiPietro had just enough time to jump in front of and block down with a chest save. Not to be outdone, Potvin would make an impressive save of his own later in the period as Islanders forward Mariusz Czerkawski was able to cut through the defense and find himself right in front of the Bruins’ net. However, before he could get a solid shot off, Potvin knocked the puck from off his stick to maintain the 0-0 deadlock.

Potvin made another great save to kick off the third period, denying forward Arron Asham on a wrap-around attempt, with the collective efforts of both defenses thwarting any chance of the game being decided in regulation time. Despite this, the Bruins looked as though they received a huge break as Islanders rookie Trent Hunter took a hooking penalty with just 30 seconds left, which would have seen a power play carry into overtime. However, just 21 seconds later, the penalty would be nullified after Murray was called for slashing, sending the contest into overtime with an even number of skaters.

Fittingly, the five-minute overtime period saw great saves from both netminders, as Bruins forward PJ Axelsson was denied by DiPietro in a scramble in front of the net and Islanders captain Michael Peca was also stopped by Potvin after receiving a behind-the-net pass from defenseman Adrian Aucoin. Speaking of Aucoin, he would be the one to take the final shot of the game as he hammered the puck towards the net from a distance, though the shot would go off of teammate Kenny Jonsson as time expired to seal the 0-0 draw.

DiPietro saved all 28 shots that came his way, while also taking his third of what would be five shutouts on the season. As for Potvin, however, this would be his 32nd and final shutout of his NHL career, stopping all 33 chances in what would be his best performance of the season, though he would not play again after the 2003-04 campaign. Both the Bruins and Islanders would suffer the same playoff fate as the year before, with both teams falling out in the first round as Boston was eliminated in seven games by their bitter rivals in the Montreal Canadiens, while New York fell to the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in five games. Following the cancellation of the 2004-05 season as a result of a lockout, the NHL instituted new rules for overtime games starting with the 2005-06 season claiming that the five-minute overtime would be followed by an indefinite shootout round should neither team score in the overtime period, all but assuring that at least one goal will have to be scored in a given game as long as the rules are still in place.

Thank you for reading!

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