The New York Islanders threw everything but Bill Smith's toupee at Philadelphia goalie Pelle Lindbergh during a 27-shot second period tonight. But it was not enough.
Lindbergh stopped 25 of those shots and earned his first career victory at Nassau Coliseum as the Flyers chased Smith and scored a 5-3 triumph that boosted them into a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Patrick Division final.
Trailing by one entering the final period, the Islanders managed only four futile shots before Ilkka Sinisalo's empty-net goal wrapped up the Flyers' 11th straight win and 22nd in 23 games.
It was an unusual defeat for the Islanders. Outshot in 20 of their previous 22 games but often victorious because of Smith's superb goaltending, they succumbed tonight despite a 39-21 edge in shots.
"The second period was all Islanders," said Brian Propp, whose short-handed goal proved to be the winner. "They were all over us. They had a five-minute advantage, and we weren't skating. If it wasn't for Pelle, we'd have been down two or three goals."
Philadelphia frustrated Smith while building a 4-1 lead on just nine shots. Although Smith stopped the Flyers' last six attempts of the second period, Coach Al Arbour replaced him with Kelly Hrudey for the third period.
Smith admitted his feuding with referee Ron Wicks contributed to his downfall. "I stopped it in the second period, but the first period was totally ridiculous," Smith said. "I don't want to talk about it. If I commented truthfully, I'd probably be suspended and fined."
Anders Kallur's centering pass from behind the goalline struck Lindbergh's pad and caromed into the net to give New York its only lead of the game.
Before the first period ended, the Flyers used a two-man advantage to tie the score on Doug Crossman's rebound, then moved in front as Rick Tocchet slid the puck past an enraged Smith. Shortly before Tocchet's score, the goalie had been penalized for slashing Dave Brown, then took a vain dive when Todd Bergen bumped him in the crease. The Flyers had four power plays in the period, the Islanders none.
Ron Sutter pried the puck out of a pileup in front of the Philadelphia net and started a play that ended with his knocking the puck between Smith's legs for a 3-1 advantage early in the second period.
The Islanders got their big chance when Brad McCrimmon was assessed a five-minute penalty for whacking Duane Sutter in the head with his stick. But it backfired as Propp lifted the puck from Clark Gillies and beat Smith on a short-handed breakaway.
Three goals behind after less than 29 minutes, the Islanders proved once again that they do not go down easily. Before McCrimmon returned, Brent Sutter deflected a Stefan Persson shot past Lindbergh to close the gap.
John Tonelli, despite Crossman's bearhug, managed to skate in from the right wing corner and score as he crashed over Lindbergh with 38 seconds left in the period.
The Islanders had nothing left for the third period, however, and the Flyers had little difficulty clearing their zone and dumping the puck down the ice.
"It took all year to implement the discipline-and-defensive posture you have to play with when you have a one-goal lead," said Flyers Coach Mike Keenan. "We try to play consistent, aggressive defense. You can't just sit back. But let's face facts. The man who shut them down tonight was our goaltender. Without the performance of Mr. Lindbergh, we'd have been hard pressed to come up with a win."
Lindbergh came into his first playoff game at Nassau Coliseum with an 0-3-1 regular-season mark. This also was the scene of his celebrated disaster in the 1983 All-Star Game, when he yielded six goals in the third period, four to Wayne Gretzky.
"I didn't think about any of that before the game," Lindbergh said. "I've been playing well, the team has been playing well and the past is past."
It was a tough night for Arbour. He was struck in the face by a puck while standing behind the bench in the first period and he spent the rest of the period screaming at Wicks, once opening the door to the bench and raving until play was under way. Afterward, he took refuge in his office and declined to attend the usual postgame press conference. Asked about his replacement, Smith said, "I don't know. You'll have to ask him. It's frustrating, but I have no feeling about it right now."
Since it was impossible to query Arbour, one could only speculate that he was laying the groundwork for a start by Hrudey Thursday, when the Islanders try to stave off elimination.
Certainly, Smith holds no mystique where the Flyers are concerned, with a career playoff record of 4-5, a regular-season mark of 8-21-6 and a nine-game winless streak against them.