The Edmonton Oilers probably have never been as glad to see an airport as they were this morning when they boarded a flight at O'Hare for their return to Canada.
Their five-day stay in Chicago was "a nightmare," Coach Glen Sather said. The source of his anguish was the Chicago Black Hawks, who Sunday night beat the Oilers, 8-6, for the second straight time to even their Campbell Conference final series at two games apiece.
In Thursday's 5-2 victory, Chicago played its normal checking game. On Sunday, the Black Hawks beat Edmonton at its own game, outskating the high-scoring Oilers.
After the Oilers won the first two games of the series at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton by scores of 11-2 and 7-3, this series looked like a sure sweep for the Oilers, who had a 12-game playoff winning streak before Thursday.
"We were so worried about what they were doing that we didn't worry enough about what we were doing," said Chicago's Steve Larmer, who had two goals and an assist Sunday. "The last two games, it's just been go, go, go."
Game 5 will be Tuesday night in Edmonton and Game 6 will be Thursday night back at Chicago Stadium. If a seventh is needed, it would be Saturday night in Edmonton.
Playing before 17,894 vociferous home fans, the Black Hawks had an edge from the start.
"It will be nice to be home," Wayne Gretzky said in reference to the Chicago crowd, which hurled insults, and, occasionally, toilet paper at him. "Our fans are relatively quiet, but they can be loud. Hopefully, they'll get really loud."
The other advantage to being at home was that Chicago had the final line change.
"We've made a lot of adjustments that took two games to find what line combinations we wanted," Black Hawks Coach Bob Pulford said. "Up there (in Edmonton), they'll have the last change and will have something to say about the matchups. We wanted Troy (Murray) against Gretzky and Tom (Lysiak) against (Mark) Messier. Up there, it will be difficult."
Gretzky had the first goal of the game while the teams were skating three men a side, and later had two assists. But his frustration, and that of his teammates, was evident in the second period when he was called for tripping Murray, who held Gretzky without a point Thursday night. It broke a 37-game scoring streak for the NHL's most valuable player.
"We seem to have been frustrated for two games," said Gretzky, who has had only two penalties in the playoffs this year. "We had our chances, though. At one point, (Larry) Melnyk missed an open net and then (Murray) Bannerman made a great save on (Glenn) Anderson. That's two right there. The other thing is that we can't get behind and start chasing them. We have to get them chasing us."
The Oilers' lead was short-lived. Darryl Sutter scored at 4:23, then Ed Olczyk got a short-handed goal at 9:50 to make it 2-1. Edmonton's Jaroslav Pouzar made it 3-3 at 17:20, but it would be the last tie. Curt Fraser and Al Secord scored in the last 2:40 of the period to give the Black Hawks a 5-3 lead.
With the Black Hawks up, 6-4, to start the final period, Larmer got his second goal at 4:52 from Denis Savard and Sutter. Then 32 seconds later, Bob Murray scored to make it 8-4, which prompted Sather to replace goalie Grant Fuhr with Andy Moog.
The Black Hawks did all their scoring on only 25 shots on goal, while Bannerman faced 35 shots. Anderson scored at 16:41, then, with Moog out for an extra skater, Messier scored at 17:45. But it was too little, too late.