The Philadelphia Flyers played without leading scorer Tim Kerr tonight and team captain Dave Poulin joined him on the injury list before the first period ended. It hardly mattered.
The Quebec Nordiques, playing with minimal enthusiasm and skill, dropped a 4-2 decision to the Flyers in a game that does not figure to provide much footage for postseason highlight films.
There were highlights for Flyers Murray Craven and Joe Paterson, though. The two young forwards, acquired in an October trade with Detroit for Darryl Sittler, scored their first Stanley Cup goals.
The best-of-seven NHL playoff series, tied at 1-1, will resume Thursday in Philadelphia, where the Flyers have won 20 in a row and have been beaten four times in 45 games this season.
"We're certainly pleased to get a split, particularly after losing the first game," Flyers Coach Mike Keenan said. "A split is a good way to go home."
Going home with Kerr and Poulin out of commission is something else. At least, Kerr's strained right knee showed no additional swelling today. Poulin had the consolation of scoring a short-handed goal that put the Flyers ahead to stay before he left late in the first period with muscle spasms in his chest.
The Nordiques' fans like to hold printed signs with the club's logo and the words "Terrible, Terrible, Terrible." It is a play on the Pepsi Cola commercial, meaning "terribly good," but tonight it was an adequate commentary on the proceedings on the ice.
Referee Bob Myers assessed 32 penalties, including eight majors, as fights broke out repeatedly. Although Quebec outshot the Flyers, 29-25, it tested Pelle Lindbergh only nine times in the first 36 minutes and never really threatened to even things after Philadelphia took a 3-0 lead.
Most of the Flyers' goals resulted from mistakes by a Quebec defense that seemed to be moving on snowshoes rather than skates.
Defenseman Mario Marois twice tried to pass behind his own net during the first-period power play on which Poulin scored. On the first try, he hit the side of the net; on the second, he caromed it off the boards out in front.
Craven shot twice at goalie Mario Gosselin, who stopped both, and then the puck went behind the net. Craven retrieved the puck and passed out to Poulin, who scored while Gosselin was looking the other way, possibly for defensive help.
"I didn't see Dave; I was just taking a chance," Craven said. "I guess it looked like I had eyes in the back of my head."
Craven scored on his 20th shot of the playoffs early in the second period. Using Peter Zezel as a screen, he beat Gosselin from the right-wing boards.
"I had just come on the ice and they were still making a change," Craven said. "There was a lot of open ice and Peter Zezel ran interference. I shot behind him and he just moved out of the way or I might have hit him in the back. I don't think Gosselin could see it."
Twenty-one seconds before the second period ended, Marois fell down, helping to turn a routine two-on-two into another goal. Ilkka Sinisalo shot it past Gosselin, with Zezel once again serving as a screen.
After Quebec's Jean-Francois Sauve scored a controversial goal with Paterson in the penalty box, Paterson wrapped up the decision by picking off Bruce Bell's pass, evading Marois and beating Gosselin on a breakaway.
"Isn't that something, Murray and me both getting our first goal in the same game?" Paterson mused. "Murray hit the post the last game and we both had good chances in the Islanders' series. I told him we had to keep plugging and it would come sooner or later. I'm glad it was sooner. It takes some of the pressure off."
A lot of pressure was applied by the absence of Kerr and Poulin, but the Flyers' young forwards made up for it with solid forechecking that kept the Nordiques bottled up until the last few minutes.
"Nobody said much about Tim Kerr, but the guys knew we had to pick it up," Paterson said. "At the meeting yesterday we talked about building up our intensity and I think we did a good job of it.
"Nobody said anything when Dave Poulin left, either. I didn't realize he was injured until we came into the dressing room between periods and he wasn't there. He's usually speaking up in the dressing room. So then we really knew we had to do the job."
Keenan refused to discuss the officiating, although a whistle for a hand pass seemed appropriate when Wilf Paiement batted the puck to Alain Lemieux a moment before Sauve scored.
Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron was not reluctant to criticize Myers, concentrating on a high stick by Ron Sutter that caused a three-stitch cut in Peter Stastny's forehead in the second period without a penalty.