The Edmonton Oilers scored a record 44 goals in their six-game Campbell Conference playoff victory over Chicago. Tonight, in the opening game of the Stanley Cup finals, they found that goals carry a higher price against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Edmonton beat Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh only once, with 3 minutes 8 seconds left in the game, and dropped a 4-1 decision to the Patrick Division representatives.
Ilkka Sinisalo, Ron Sutter, Tim Kerr and Dave Poulin scored for the Flyers, who extended their remarkable unbeaten streak against the defending Stanley Cup champions to nine games.
Lindbergh kept the Oilers at bay until the outcome was assured, then was beaten by Willy Lindstrom to end a shutout streak that had reached 149 minutes 50 seconds. The last previous goal Lindbergh had allowed was to Quebec's Jean-Francois Sauve in the second period of Game 5 in the Prince of Wales Conference final series.
Sutter continued a remarkable playoff checking performance that he started against the likes of Bryan Trottier and Peter Stastny by holding Edmonton superstar Wayne Gretzky without a shot. It is a rare night when Gretzky does not score; for him to go without a shot borders on the unthinkable.
"I just wanted to make sure he wasn't going to score against me," Sutter said. "If it wasn't me on him, someone was always close to him. No matter how great you are, you're going to have one of those games some time or other."
Gretzky has been bothered by a cold, but Edmonton Coach Glen Sather said, "Wayne stopped himself. It's not very often you see him playing like that. He's had a cold, but that's no excuse. We're in the Stanley Cup finals and guys have played with broken legs."
Game 2 will be played here Thursday before the scene shifts to Edmonton for the middle three games of the best-of-seven series. Sather expects better things from his team. He also hopes for better ice and better pucks.
Sather's comments on the ice are unprintable here. As for the pucks, he said, "The way the puck was bouncing, they must be using those cheap pucks the NHL bought. You'd take a shot and they'd wobble. They must have got a real deal on them."
Still, Sather admitted his team had been outplayed. The Flyers held a 41-26 margin in shots, 29-12 over the first two periods.
"We weren't skating like we're capable of -- it was like we were skating in sand," Sather said. "We didn't play the way we can, but a lot of it had to do with the way Philly was playing. Philly worked very hard and didn't make many mistakes."
Sinisalo scored the only goal of the first 45 minutes while the Flyers had a two-man advantage, Charlie Huddy having hooked Kerr 14 seconds after Willy Lindstrom went off for cross checking.
Grant Fuhr, who was sensational in the Edmonton net until he made a costly third-period error, blocked both a close-range drive by Kerr and Sinisalo's rebound before the Finn lifted the second rebound into the net.
"I hesitated because I thought Tim Kerr was going to shoot," Sinisalo said. "The goalie was poking at the puck but he didn't control it and I was able to put it in. They can score so easily, you know one goal won't stand up."
It did stand up, however, until an unassisted goal by Sutter eased a lot of the pressure. Each team was a man short when Sutter made a quick move to deflect a Paul Coffey pass intended for Jari Kurri along the Edmonton blueline. Poking the puck ahead, Sutter went in on a breakaway and beat Fuhr with a back-hander high on the glove side.
"Maybe I anticipated it a little bit," Sutter said. "I was lucky the way it worked out."
The Flyers certainly were a little lucky on their third goal. Fuhr tossed the puck to his left and Poulin skated quickly in to bang it right back into the goalie's skates. Before Fuhr could control it a second time, Poulin knocked it behind him and Kerr had an easy tap-in. It was the ninth goal in 10 playoff games for Kerr, making his first appearance since he strained his right knee in Quebec May 5.
The Oilers avoided a shutout when Lindstrom slipped behind defenseman Brad Marsh, took a pass from Mark Messier and tucked the puck inside the post at Lindbergh's left. Then Poulin completed the scoring into an empty net.
The game was not without controversy. The Oilers were unhappy because the Flyers had six power plays in the first 30 minutes, to Edmonton's one. The Flyers objected when defenseman Kevin Lowe crashed into the net with Sinisalo in scoring position, dislodging it without a penalty call.
"We spent the first two periods trying to kill penalties," Sather said. "For the first half of the game, they had 7 1/2 power plays to our half a one. That hurt our hockey club."
"We felt the net was dislodged intentionally, but our team has a great deal of discipline and we didn't let it upset us," said Philadelphia Coach Mike Keenan. "We have a young team, but everybody was relaxed and ready to play. We've been looking forward to this game for three days."