The Philadelphia Flyers held a team meeting Wednesday and decided it was time to send the Quebec Nordiques on a vacation. They did so tonight, with a convincing 3-0 victory that propelled them into the Stanley Cup final against Edmonton.
The key blow was landed by team captain Dave Poulin, who called the meeting and whose injury problems, along with those that kept out Tim Kerr and Brad McCrimmon, had helped to extend this Prince of Wales Conference championship series to six games.
Trailing, 1-0, Quebec had a two-man advantage early in the second period. But Poulin picked off a pass by the Nordiques' captain, Mario Marois, and raced in to score on a breakaway.
Not even in General Manager Bob Clarke's own playing days had the Flyers scored while two men down in a playoff game, and most of the 17,191 fans responded with an uproar that left the Nordiques numb. Not only did they not launch a shot during the 81 seconds of the two-man advantage, they almost yielded another goal when Ron Sutter's shot a few seconds later hit the post after slipping between the pads of goalie Mario Gosselin.
"That was definitely a big goal," Flyers Coach Mike Keenan said. "They were only one goal down and, if they'd scored, it could have been a different hockey game."
Poulin said he neither anticipated Marois' pass, intended for Peter Stastny along the Flyers' blueline, nor planned his shot at the end of the breakaway, which beat Gosselin high on the glove side. "I didn't know he'd pass it," Poulin said. "It was just a reaction. You rely on your reflexes out there. It hit my stick at a perfect angle and I got the breakaway, although somebody was coming fast. I could hear the chop-chop of a skate.
"It was near the end of a shift and I haven't played much in the last five weeks, so I wasn't sure I'd get there first. We've talked about going upstairs on Gosselin -- he's such a good goaltender in close -- but I didn't really think about the shot. It's hard to explain. You just do what hits you at the time. I didn't think about it until I was five feet in front of him and I just put it upstairs.
"The terrific thing there for us was our crowd. If they weren't demoralized . . . " and Poulin raised his eyes. "If they had come back and scored, it could have been a different game, but that had to shake them up."
Poulin and Brad Marsh did much of the talking at Wednesday's meeting, which was held before practice without the coaches.
"We hadn't played that well and we were close to awful for two periods the other night (in a 2-1 victory Tuesday at Quebec)," Poulin said. "We've relied on the Swede (goaltender Pelle Lindbergh) and he's been great, but we talked about winning in style tonight. We hadn't had a lot of games where we had everybody going and I said, 'Let's all play and we'll be that much better. The end is almost here, let's finish them off.' "
The Flyers followed that philosophy in devastating fashion. They outshot the Nordiques, 36-15, and applied so much pressure to Quebec's defense that if Gosselin had not been sensational, the score could have been doubled or even tripled.
"We used our speed to take it to them," Keenan said. "We felt our speed would hurt them if we got rolling, and, with our speed and transition at a higher tempo, we were able to back their defensemen off the blueline."
Asked if the Flyers could play any better than they did tonight, Keenan replied, "That's a good question. Tonight was as good a performance as we've played all year. Maybe we'll be pushed to a higher level in the next series." The Flyers are unbeaten in their last eight regular-season games against Edmonton, which ought to give them a bit of a mental edge when the best-of-seven final opens here on Tuesday.
The only really testing shot against Lindbergh came early in the first period, when Paul Gillis hit a post after taking Brent Ashton's setup. Before the period ended. Rick Tocchet deflected Mark Howe's shot past Gosselin to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
After Poulin's devastating short-handed score, his second of the series, Doug Crossman completed the scoring with a power play drive from the slot that beat Gosselin low on the stick side.
The Nordiques never mounted a counterattack and Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron said, "We played three tough, physical series and tonight maybe we were physically and mentally tired. We deserved to win the last game in Quebec but we didn't win it. Tonight the Flyers were the better team."
The Flyers' victory maintained the Patrick Division's perfect record (4-0) against the Adams in Wales play since the format went into effect in 1982.