The New York Rangers turned the Spectrum into a red light district again tonight, thrashing the Philadelphia Flyers, 8-3, and moving into hockey's Stanley Cup semifinals for the first time in five years.
In winning four straight games, the Rangers outscored the Flyers, 26-5. The figures for the five-game series were 28-8, matching the most onesided playoff in history, Boston's 28-8 massacre of St. Louis in 1972.
Adding to the unreality was the Flyers' preseries role as favorites, after finishing in front of New York during the regular season.
The Rangers built a 5-0 lead tonight, giving them 16 straight goals, before the Flyers ended a shutout streak of 168 minutes 59 seconds at 10:37 of the third period. Reg Leach netted that one, on the fourth shot of a sudden barrage after Coach Pat Quinn had lifted goalie Wayne Stephenson to maximize an extra-man situation.
The gave the Flyers their first spark in a long time and those who remained of the sellout crowd of 17,077 were on their feet screaming when Bob Dailey and Behn Wilson followed with goals that cut the margin to 5-3 with 4:33 left.
"I was a little bit tired out there and we'd cooled off and I started thinking we'd better get off our butts and get going again," said goalie John Davidson, the hero of all those
Scoreless minutes. "When we got another goal, it made it easy."
Before that goal came, on Carol Vadnais' conversion of a two-on-one break with Ron Duguay, Davidson made four superb saves. He stopped Wilson, Bobby Clarke, Mel Bridgman and Jim Watson in quick succession as the Flyers buzzed toward a miracle finish.
"I was getting very nervous," said Walt Tkaczuk, a two-goal scorer who was the game's No. 1 star. "I wanted another timeout, but we'd already used it. They were really coming, but J. D. (Davidson) saved us again."
After Vadnais' goal, Eddie Johnstone and Anders Hedberg connected to complete a nine-goal period, another Stanley Cup record. The Rangers scored two short-handed goals for a series total of five, another Cup record, against a team that had yielded only two during the 80-game regular season.
For a final tilt at the record book, the Rangers' 28 goals broke by four the record for a five-game series.
The result was an endorsement of Fred Shero for coach of the decade. He brought the Flyers the only two Stanley Cups ever won by an expansion team and now in one season he has resurrected a sorry Ranger outfit. Perhaps the best tribute was the disciplined response of the Rangers to the Flyers' mugging tactics, which reached their peak in the second period with New York ahead, 2-0.
Bob Sheehan needed three stitches across the nose after Clarke whacked him with his stick while Sheehan lay on the ice. Don Murdoch suffered a mild concussion after he was hooked down by Watson and Don Maloney needed three stitches in his lip after an encounter with Clarke.
Ron Greschner injured his shoulder and Dave Maloney never even dressed, after suffering a charley horse from a cheap-shot run by Paul Holmgren on Sunday. It all left the Rangers in a somewhat battered condition to enter Thursday's initial game of the semifinals against the New York Islanders.