For most of his nine-year National Hockey League career, Quebec goalie Daniel Bouchard has been saddled with a reputation for choking in the playoffs. Tonight Bouchard was brilliant. It may be, however, that the rest of Nordiques choked instead.
The Philadelphia Flyers dominated Quebec in every phase of the game and breezed into the Stanley Cup quarterfinals with a 5-2 victory. Only Bouchard, the longtime playoff flop with Atlanta, inspired any doubt about the outcome, but he finally yielded three goals in the first six minutes of the third period that broke the game open.
"I was good, maybe as good as I've been all season," Bouchard said, "but against the Flyers it wasn't enough. They can think what they want about me and judge me any way they want, I really don't care. The only one with the power to judge is the one who made us."
The Flyers had to be pondering whether that ultimate judge had something against them after the first period ended in a 1-1 tie. During those 20 minutes, the Flyers outshot Quebec, 19-4, missed the net with 14 other shots and won 26 of 34 faceoffs.
Philadelphia's only goal came on a power-play shot by Rick MacLeish, with Bouchard caught out of the net after Bill Barber bumped him as the goalie attempted to clear the puck. Quebec matched it 48 seconds later as Michel Goulet converted a superb pass from Anton Stastny.
When Al Hill put the Flyers in front to stay at 10:11 of the second period, on Mel Bridgman's setup following an excellent save by Bouchard, the Flyers had a 26-7 advantage in shots and there was wonder how the Nordiques had ever managed to win two games in this best-of-five series. Philadelphia Coach Pat Quinn was worried, despite Quebec's failure to mount a challenge.
"It looked like one of those frustrating series like Montreal ran into, when you work as hard and play as well as you have all season and still come up with nothing," Quinn said. "Bouchard scared the hell out of me. He's a winner, no matter what's been said through the years."
Early in the third period, the line of Ken Linesman, Paul Holmgren and Brian Propp finally eased the butterflies in the stomachs of Quinn and the 17,077 Spectrum fans.
Holmgren blocked a shot by Quebec's Dale Hoganson and Linseman skated down the right side on a two-on-one with Propp. Faking a pass, Linseman lifted a high backhander over Bouchard at the 18-second mark for a 3-1 lead.
Holmgren made it 4-1 at 2-38 on a second rebound, after Bouchard made a sensational stop on an unguarded Linseman and also blocked Propp's rebound. Propp then put it away at 5:07, converting a Linseman feed as the Nordiques broke down completely in their end of the ice.
Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron was upset because referee Andy Van Hellemond did not rule a penalty shot when Linseman grabbed Robbie Ftorek from behind on a clear breakaway with the score tied at 1-1 early in the second period.
Dale Hunter stole the puck from Linseman and broke Linseman's stick in the process. Hunter then made a quick pass to Ftorek, who followed a route down the slot until Linseman lunged, spinning Ftorek by the shoulder and forcing him to lose the puck. Van Hellemond merely called a minor penalty for holding.
"I was looking for a penalty shot," Ftorek said, "and obviously a goal would be helpful to us in that situation. But I don't argue very much. The referee has his job to do and he called it the other way. That's just a fact of life you have to accept."
Tonight the Nordiques were accepting the fact that they were finished, deservedly so. The Flyers resume play Thursday, entertaining Calgary in the opener of a best-of-seven quarterfinal.