The Quebec Nordiques pried the home-ice advantage back from the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. Alain Cote and Brad Maxwell put third-period goals past struggling Pelle Lindbergh to give Quebec a 5-3 victory after the Flyers had erased a two-goal deficit.
All of Philadelphia's scores came on power plays against rookie goaltender Mario Gosselin, who stopped 34 shots in another strong performance.
"Their goaltender played exceptionally well and he played better than ours tonight," Philadelphia Coach Mike Keenan said. "Pelle didn't have his best night, that's for sure."
This was the Flyers' first loss at home in 22 games over 99 days and only their fifth in 47. It was Quebec's second victory in 15 visits, with the other one coming on Jan. 15, 1981.
"We play well on the road and we didn't think about the past," said Cote, who scored twice. "The main thing is, we wanted the win and we got it. Now we have to go home and play the same way. It's not that we don't like our fans that we don't do do well at home, but we try to put on a show instead of just playing our style. We can't do that now."
Tied at 2-2, the best-of-seven Prince of Wales Conference championship will shift to Quebec Tuesday night. The Flyers, beset with injuries, are at a distinct disadvantage.
"Home-ice advantage is important," said Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron. He added, in a rare display of coachly forthrightness, "It wasn't important yesterday because we didn't have it, but today it's very important because we do have it."
Discussing the state of his injury-riddled team, Keenan said, "Brad McCrimmon was awarded our most valuable defenseman trophy and, of course, you miss a player like that. And when you consider our lineup, without Tim Kerr and Dave Poulin, we're scoring very well."
Cote produced his game-winner, on a rebound of a shot by Anton Stastny, at 4:32 of the third period. It came just 84 seconds after Mark Howe had pulled Philadelphia even for the first time since the early minutes.
"I pushed the puck in," Cote said. "I just touched it, but with the goalie not there, it was enough. It was important to come right back."
Maxwell, whose penchant for picking up bad penalties hurt the Nordiques in their 4-2 loss Thursday, scored the clincher at 12:37 on a short-side shot from the right point. It came with Flyer Ed Hospodar off for high sticking and was only the second power-play goal of the series for the Nordiques.
"I think we showed a lot of character," Bergeron said. "Even when we were ahead by two goals twice and they came back twice, we didn't give up. Maxwell hurt us with bad penalties the last game, but he played well tonight and that takes a real pro."
Bergeron felt the big turning point of the game occurred in the first 6 1/2 minutes. Peter Stastny received a major penalty for high-sticking Rick Tocchet and, on the five-minute power play that followed, Gosselin blocked six shots.
Three seconds before Stastny returned, Quebec's Dale Hunter beat Lindbergh from the blueline with a spinning shot for a short-handed goal that rattled the home club.
"I think he misplayed it," Hunter said. "It skipped and dipped. The ice is not the best at the blueline and I think it took off funny."
"We started the game with a five-minute penalty and we killed the penalty and even scored short-handed," Bergeron said. "That was the turning point. If we gave them a goal, it might have been tough to come back."
Keenan agreed. "The early power play was very important," he said. "We had an opportunity to take the lead and we didn't score. It's tough to start the game with a major power play like that, because not many goals are scored in the first few minutes of a period."
On the Nordiques' next shot at 9:23 -- their first equal-strength shot of the game -- Cote converted Paul Gillis' feed to make it 2-0.
Doug Crossman put the Flyers on the scoreboard early in the second period, but Mark Kumpel got it back late in the period. Then Flyer Brian Propp picked off Brent Ashton's pass at his own blueline, skated down the middle and split defenders Pat Price and Randy Moller to score a sensational goal 53 seconds before the period ended.
When Howe rattled a shot off the left post into the net early in the third period, the Flyers seemed to have things under control. But Cote made that feeling short-lived.
Referee Don Koharski had things under control from start to finish, a welcome change from the past two games, and it was reflected in the higher level of play.
When Flyer Dave Brown used his stick on Cote after Cote's first goal, he was assessed a minor penalty. When he jumped Gillis from behind while Gillis and Derrick Smith were engaged in a minor disagreement, Brown not only received a minor but a game misconduct as well.
Since Keenan dressed six defensemen for the first time in the series, Brown's absence left the Flyers unable to skate four full lines for the remaining 47 minutes.
With this series certain to go at least six games, the Stanley Cup final will start May 21. That means the season will be the longest ever, since Game 4 is scheduled May 28 and the latest previous game was in Buffalo on May 27, 1975, when the Flyers won their second Cup.