The Philadelphia Flyers' power play, the most important in the National Hockey League all season, turned vicious tonight.
Four times the Minnesota North Stars had to play a man shy. Four times the Flyers scored. By the time-the debris had cleared, the home team had thrashed the upstart North Stars, 7-0, in front of 17,077 in the Spectrum, evening their best-of-seven Stanley Cup semifinal at 1-1. Game 3 is Sunday in Minnesota.
"I wasn't surprised by our power play," said Ken Linseman, one of its key elements. "The odds were in our favor."
During the regular season, Philadelphia scored on 16.3 percent of its power-play changes, dead last in the 21-team league, in contrast to the Flyers' league-leading record. In the playoffs they had been even worse -- 8 percent before tonight.
But after being stung by the underdog visitors in Tuesday's opener, the Flyers came out tonight looking to take the body, looking to hit anything in green and white.
North Star Coach Glen Sonmor had warned Wednesday that, "if we don't match them check-for-check takeout for takeout, they take control." Tonight, Minnesota matched nothing the Flyers did.
Philadelphia goalie Phil Myre, Coach Pat Quinn's starter after Pete Peeters surrendered six goals in the opener, was flawless. Myre turned away 27 shots in recording the shutout; Minnesota goalie Gary Edwards, brilliant in relief Tuesday, could not have caught a cold.
Seven individual Flyers scored. The first goal, on a power play, came 2:09 into the game on a floating shot by Paul Holmgren at which Edwards swiped much like a baseball batter fooled by a changeup. The second one came 71 seconds later -- short-handed -- when Bill Barber took a gorgeous feed from Bob Dailey (who has a goal and four assists) and easily beat a sprawling Edwards.
That started the romp and it didn't let up until Reggie Leach scored with 40 seconds left in the game.
"a win like this has to help a lot," said Rick MacLeish, one of seven Flyers remaining from the two Stanley Cup winners in 1974 and 1975. "They have to know that this is the kind of hockey they're going to see the rest of the series."
This was vintage Flyer hockey. The North Stars seemed like children trying to complete with adults the entire 60 minutes.
"That's about the worst beating' we've taken all year," defenseman Brad Maxwell said. "We had about 50 percent effort out there, maybe less."
As frequently happens when one team must win and the other has already sewn up and the proverbial split on the road, the difference in intensity was apparent from the start.
After the Flyers had taken their 2-0 lead in the first 3:20, the North Stars had four power-play chances during the period. Twice in the opener they had scored man-advantage goals. This time, they never came close.
Ironically, the big difference in Philadelphia power play may have resulted from Minnesota's power-play success in Game 1.
"We spent time yesterday looking at films of their power play to see how we could stop it," Quinn said. "I think in doing that we may have picked up on some of the concepts they use: moving the puck, moving away from the puck, working behind the net. It wasn't emulation by teaching, it was more like emulation by osmosis."
Three times in the second period, the Flyers converted Minnesota penalties into goals, all in less than a minute. The team that could not buy a power-play goal played as if it had invented it.
The first of the period came after Barber, one of the NHL's foremost dive artists, took one that deserved a 10, and got the hockey player's 10 -- a two-minute hooking play on Maxwell. Sixteen second later, Bobby Clarke stuffed home an Al Hill rebound and it was 3-0.
At 8:20, referee Bruce Hood, serenaded by a "You stink, Hood" chant by the Philadelphia fans almost every time he had the audacity to make a call against the Flyers, sent Minnesota captain Paul Shmyr off an a questionable tripping call.
This time, it took the Flyers 22 seconds to score, Holmgren winning a draw to Linesman, who fed Dailey on the right point. Dailey bomber from 50 feet and, although unscreened, Edwards never moved as the puck flew over his left shoulder.
Two minutes later Hood banished Craig Hartsburg of Minnesota. Now the Flyers were tiring -- they needed 54 seconds before Brian Propp poked home and rebound of Barber's heavy drive from the point. That made it 5-0 at 13:27 and the only questions left were Myre's shutout and Hood's safety. Both survived.
"We're not that bad and they're not that good," Sonmor said. "But there was a big difference in intensity tonight. You could feel it from the beginning. I think we'll be all right, though. My kids don't get shelled-shocked too easily."