Without Bill Smith, the New York Islanders may be mortal after all. With Pelle Lindbergh, the Philadelphia Flyers may not be.
Smith didn't play tonight; Lindbergh did. Enough said. The Flyers easily won the opening game of their Patrick Division final series, 3-0, against an Islanders team that looked like it left many of its best moves back in Landover, Md.
"We didn't have any zip," Islanders Coach Al Arbour said. "They didn't have to work real hard for a shutout."
Although not tested as severely as Smith was in the final two games of the series with the Washington Capitals, Lindbergh brought the capacity crowd of 17,191 to its feet several times with 38 saves at the Spectrum. As a result, the Flyers took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes here Sunday.
Smith, meanwhile, watched from the bench as Kelly Hrudey, the rookie who lost the double-overtime game last week to the Capitals, started in his place.
Arbour just wanted to give Smith a rest, figuring that this game, hitting the Islanders less than 48 hours after the finale at Capital Centre, might not go so well no matter who played in goal.
"Kelly Hrudey is a very good goaltender," said Arbour, defending a decision that didn't surprise either his team or the Flyers. "He played an excellent game in overtime last week and he played an excellent game tonight."
Problem was, his supporting cast was not nearly as good as Lindbergh's. Hrudey kept the game even for the first period, but second-period goals by Rick Tocchet and Tim Kerr and a late third-period goal by Ron Sutter were way too much for the Islanders to overcome.
In all, Lindbergh, who shut out the Islanders, 3-0, two weeks ago in their final regular-season meeting, stopped 22 shots, most from the point.
"That game two weeks ago was a lot tougher game for me," Lindbergh said. "There were twice as many shots at me . . . . I don't know if they were tired or not tonight. But tonight, it was easier. That's nicer, because it's a playoff game."
The New York offense was dormant. Philadelphia defenseman Brad Marsh said he couldn't remember any Islanders shots off their rebounds, which usually is a New York trademark. And Lindbergh said an Islander appearance in the crease was so rare, "I don't remember being screened at all."
The Flyers, who had the best record in the National Hockey League during the regular season, readily acknowledged their good fortune. The fact that the Washington-New York series went to its limit, while the Flyers finished off the New York Rangers last Saturday night, was not lost on them.
"It probably was to our advantage to play them today," said Philadelphia Coach Mike Keenan.
Momentum didn't matter. Fatigue did.
"Our series with Washington took a lot out of the guys," said Pat LaFontaine, who was stopped once tonight on a breakaway by Lindbergh in the first period. "The Flyers are just riding high, playing super hockey, and we come off a big series. But this team will bounce back. It's going to be a long series, we're sure about that."
Anyone want to argue?
After a first period in which Hrudey stopped 16 shots and the Islanders could only muster one shot on a three-minute power play, the Flyers broke it open quickly.
Just 18 seconds after he returned from serving a two-minute roughing penalty (with New York's Duane Sutter), Tocchet scored his first goal of the playoffs when he fired a wrist shot over Hrudey's outstretched right arm 4 minutes 10 seconds into the second period.
New York center Brent Sutter went to the boards near the right faceoff circle, took control of the puck momentarily -- and then promptly lost it to Brian Propp.
Propp circled toward the goal, then left a short pass for Tocchet directly in front of the goal. From about 30 feet in front of Hrudey, Tocchet snapped a quick wrist shot toward Hrudey, leaving the goalie swiping at nothing but air.
"That was a great shot," Hrudey said. "There was no windup at all, just a flick and it was in. That was one of the best I've seen all year."
The Flyers scored 6 1/2 minutes later on right wing Kerr's sixth goal in four 1985 playoff games.
The goal began unfolding at the other end of the ice. New York defenseman Gord Dineen wound up at the point and fired a slap shot that went about five feet before slamming into Flyers center Todd Bergen, diving in front of Dineen.
Bergen got up and sent a perfect pass to Propp, streaking down the ice. Propp went in on Hrudey, tried to shoot the puck between the goalie's legs, but instead watched it thud against Hrudey's pads.
It bounced right back to Propp, who tried again -- and hit Hrudey again, this time in the glove.
Once more, the puck dribbled out in front, eluding New York defenseman Dave Langevin, who desperately twisted around to try to get to it. "I kind of lost track of it," Hrudey said.
This time, Kerr was there for the easy flick into the net, again to Hrudey's right, and the Flyers led, 2-0.
Ron Sutter's backhander on a pass from Tocchet at 16:24 of the third period finally put the Islanders out of their misery.
"We handled the puck like it was a grenade," Arbour said. "But I think we'll get our act together again with the two days off now."
The Flyers certainly expect it. "They might come at us a little more aggressively," Marsh said. "They actually came out and played a pretty good game tonight. Granted, they were a little tired, but the Islanders are a good team."