The Philadelphia Flyers continued their march to the Stanley Cup final with another Pyrrhic victory tonight. If the rate of attrition continues, they may arrive there without enough healthy bodies to provide much of a challenge.
Defenseman Brad McCrimmon will undergo surgery Friday to repair a separated left shoulder and is out for the rest of the NHL playoffs. McCrimmon was rammed into the boards in the first period and his departure removed most of the joy from the Flyers' 4-2 triumph over the Quebec Nordiques.
Philadelphia has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Wales Conference final, which continues Sunday at the Spectrum, where the Flyers have won 21 games in a row.
For the second straight time, Detroit refugees Murray Craven and Joe Paterson scored goals for the Flyers, with Ilkka Sinisalo and Brian Propp getting the other two as Philadelphia overcame an early 2-1 deficit.
Fourteen penalties were called against each team by referee Bryan Lewis and the game dragged through 3 hours 18 minutes. The pattern was set 16 seconds after the opening faceoff, when the Nordiques' Dale Hunter knocked Peter Zezel into the crease following a routine save by Quebec goalie Mario Gosselin. Fights broke out immediately, with Paterson and Randy Moller battling for some time before they were separated.
McCrimmon was hurt at 4:43 of the first period when knocked into the boards from behind by Wilf Paiement. It was the third straight game in which a Philadelphia standout was injured early. Tim Kerr left with a strained knee in the first game and Dave Poulin departed with bruised ribs and an aggravated knee injury Tuesday.
As has been his recent custom, Flyers Coach Mike Keenan dressed only five defensemen, so McCrimmon's departure put considerable pressure on the remaining quartet of Brad Marsh, Mark Howe, Doug Crossman and Ed Hospodar. They responded brilliantly, especially Marsh, who checked and blocked shots in remarkable fashion.
"If you have a good team and a good system, a good defensive system, you can go out and win anyway, no matter how many guys you lose," Marsh said.
Marsh did make one mistake, when he slashed Quebec's Michel Goulet from behind. Although Goulet responded in kind and they were assessed coincidental majors, it meant the Flyers had to skate five minutes with only three defenders.
Marsh spent so much time throwing Quebec forwards to the ice, it was amazing that he could maintain the pace to the end. The Flyers' game plan obviously was to check anybody in a blue sweater who moved and they succeeded, in large part because Lewis did not call a single penalty for interference.
"We have to skate better to beat them," said Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron. "We're trying to skate and we want to play a disciplined game, but with all the hooking and holding, it isn't easy. It doesn't make for pretty hockey, either."
The replays will not prove pretty for the Nordiques, who took weak shots and fanned on several rebounds.
"Some day we're going to be able to score more than two goals and we'll win," said Gosselin, who stopped 31 shots, many in sensational fashion, and then let Propp's routine 50-footer slip between his pads for the clincher.
The Flyers converted three of six power-play chances. Quebec was zero for six.
Although Keenan insisted Paiement deserved a penalty for his hit on McCrimmon, the Nordiques had plenty of complaints, too, among them Craven's opening goal.
Gosselin stopped a shot by Len Hachborn and Paterson's rebound, then was slashed in the neck by Paterson's stick and fell into the net as Craven scored. It appeared that Lewis allowed the goal because Hunter bumped Paterson as he went for the puck, making the slash inadvertent.
The Nordiques took a 2-1 lead before the first period ended on Alain Cote's conversion of a Peter Stastny pass and Brent Ashton's short-handed goal at the end of a two-on-one with Hunter.
Paterson tied it on a rebound of a Hospodar shot, as Quebec's Mario Marois fanned on an attempted clear. Then Sinisalo put the Flyers ahead to stay with a short-side blast from the right-wing circle.