BOSTON -- It must have been written in the stars last night.
With the clock ticking down to the final 37.3 seconds of the 46th NHL All-Star Game, hometown boy Ray Bourque, playing in his 14th All-Star Game, backhanded the puck past startled Western goalie Felix Potvin of the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 5-4 victory.
"I've been in All-Star Games a lot of times, but this will be the one I remember forever," said Bourque, the five-time Norris Trophy winner of the Boston Bruins. "Having the crowd go crazy, having our fans all here, having 30 friends and members of my family with me, including my 10-year-old son Christopher behind the bench . . . it's just the absolutely best feeling I've ever had."
Bourque's winning goal was his 14th point as an All-Star. It moved him into fourth place on the all-time All-Star scoring list, behind Wayne Gretzky (19), Gordie Howe (19) and Mario Lemieux (17).
That's pretty heady company for the 35-year-old defenseman, who has played all 17 years of his pro career with the Bruins.
Bourque is only the second defenseman to win the MVP award, matching Bobby Orr, who won in 1972.
"It was a bit like a fairy tale," said Western star Mike Gartner, who knows the feeling, having been named the MVP at the 1993 game when he was a last-minute replacement for the injured Mark Messier. "I believe in fairy tales coming true. I know what a great feeling Ray has right now."
Last night, the Eastern squad took an early lead, going up 2-0 in the first period on goals by Philadelphia's Eric Lindros and the New York Rangers' Pat Verbeek against Chicago goalie Ed Belfour, who stopped 16 other shots. With 2:07 gone in the second period, Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr made it 3-0.
Hartford's Brendan Shanahan had the East's fourth goal.
The Western stars rallied on goals by Brett Hull, Paul Coffey, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, but for the first period and a little more, it looked like Eastern Conference coach Doug MacLean of the Florida Panthers might have whispered the words, "Don't forget to play a little defense," into his players' ears.
"I think he must have," said goalie Martin Brodeur of the defending Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils. "It's not supposed to be that easy."
When Brodeur left the ice after the first period, he was unscored upon, thanks to some beautiful saves and efforts by the men in front of him who held the Western stars to 12 shots.
It was only the second time since 1986 that a goalie had been so fortunate. The only other time also came in that 1993 game that Gartner remembers so well. And in that game, the goalie at the other end of the ice in the first period was also Belfour. That night, the Chicago star was rocked for six goals, while then-Montreal Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy was shutting out the West over the first 20 minutes.
"It feels pretty good to be in such good company," said Brodeur of the performance that matched Roy's. "You don't expect it. But what a night. The guys did pretty well in front of me, and the ending was unbelievable."
Bourque's heroics were made possible after Winnipeg's Selanne beat Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek with 3:29 to play in the final period to tie the game, 4-4.
Both sides mounted attacks after that, but it was Bourque, trailing New York Rangers Mark Messier and Pat Verbeek down the ice, who got the rebound that he back-handed into the net.
Bourque called it a great game. Not just became of his heroics, but because it had everything -- great goaltending, good defense and a lot of offensive skill.
And, yes, there was also his own performance.
"My son Christopher had just come back from getting a hot dog and I told him I needed him to be there, behind the bench for me," said Bourque. "I told him I needed him to give him some good energy in the final period.
"It was wonderful having him behind the bench here. I guess it's all in the timing. I got the opportunity and it turned out great."
NOTES: West defenseman Paul Coffey had a goal and an assist to move him into a second-place tie with Larry Robinson on the defenders' scoring list. Bourque is No. 1 in that category defensemen with 14 points. . . . The Western Conference's total of 32 shots was the fewest by one team since the 1988 All-Star Game in St. Louis, when the Campbell Conference fired 30 shots at Wales Conference goaltenders Ron Hextall and Roy.