The Edmonton Oilers ended the Philadelphia Flyers' run of success against them tonight and headed west with the home-ice advantage in the final Stanley Cup series.
Goals by Wayne Gretzky and Willy Lindstrom, with an empty-net score by Dave Hunter thrown in, gave the Oilers a 3-1 victory, their first in 10 games against the Flyers. Edmonton last beat Philadelphia on Nov. 13, 1982.
"It's nice to get that burden off our shoulders," said the Oilers' Kevin McClelland, whose check on Brad Marsh behind the Flyers' net started the play that led to Lindstrom's winning shot. "We hadn't beaten them for so long. Now, things look a lot brighter."
Goaltender Grant Fuhr needed to make only 17 saves as the Oilers outplayed the home team most of the way and evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
The next three games will be played in Edmonton -- Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday -- and the Flyers certainly will recall that the New York Islanders went west under similar circumstances a year ago and never returned to Nassau Coliseum.
Tim Kerr produced the Flyers' only goal, creating a brief 1-1 tie in the second period that Lindstrom broke six minutes later. In the 24 minutes following Lindstrom's goal, the Oilers limited Philadelphia to six shots.
There was one tense moment for Edmonton, however, with 78 seconds left. Under heavy pressure from the Flyers, Oilers defenseman Paul Coffey dislodged his net. The rules in that situation call for a penalty shot, as the New York Islanders' Paul Boutilier discovered when he performed a similar act in the playoffs against Washington, and gave Bob Carpenter a chance to tie it.
The man who called that one, Andy Van Hellemond, was Tuesday's referee. Tonight's official, Kerry Fraser, shrugged his shoulders and called it an accident. Coffey heartily agreed, saying, "It was a wrestling match with (Ron) Sutter and I went to push him out of the way. It happened purely by accident."
Philadelphia Coach Mike Keenan took an opposite view, saying, "Most definitely, I think it was a miscall. It was an intentional infraction by Coffey. It was called in the Stanley Cup playoffs before this year, but tonight the referee didn't see it that way. He didn't have the courage to call it."
The Flyers' total of 18 shots matched their season low, in a 6-0 loss in Washington Dec. 26.
"There was a great resemblance in how they played to the way we played Tuesday," Keenan said. "They were on top of the puck carrier and used a pressure-type defensive game like we played in Game 1. I don't think they've had to play too many games like that, but they've shown before that they can do it."
This was only the sixth Spectrum setback for the Flyers in 50 games this season. Gretzky said the key was Edmonton's ability to score first.
"We wanted to get the lead and make them change their game a bit," Gretzky said. "We had to make sure we got the first goal, because they're such a hard team to come back against the way they play."
Each team was a man short when Gretzky scored his 50th goal in 67 career playoff games. Coffey, trying to skate in from the right-wing circle, was forced behind the net by Doug Crossman. However, Coffey managed to center the puck to Gretzky, whose point-blank shot hit the skates of both goalie Pelle Lindbergh and defenseman Mark Howe.
Lindbergh and Howe were off balance and leaning away from the net when the puck stopped behind the goalie. But Gretzky was able to skate around from behind and shoot, with Howe lunging at the last minute and getting a piece of it, although not enough to keep it out.
"We weren't the same tonight. We didn't play with the same aggressiveness," Lindbergh said. "They played better and now it's going to be tough, but we've won there and we can win there again."
The Flyers had been without a shot for about 14 minutes when they suddenly picked up some offensive momentum midway through the second period. After Fuhr made tough saves on Mark Howe and Murray Craven, Kerr took Dave Poulin's pass and beat Fuhr from the slot for his 10th goal in 11 playoff games. The red light stayed off, creating some confusion, but things were clarified when the puck was fished out of the back of the net.
The Flyers briefly took over the physical domination the Oilers had maintained most of the night and McClelland needed treatment after he was hit hard behind the play by Ed Hospodar, who was not penalized.
McClelland recovered quickly, however, and was back before the period ended, to board Marsh and jar the puck loose. Mike Krushelnyski picked it up in the left wing corner and fed Lindstrom, whose quick drive from the slot beat fellow Swede Lindbergh.
"I got a little smelling salts and a little water on my face and I was okay," McClelland said. "I had my head down and he's good at coming across and catching you.
"I don't mind. This was my kind of game -- a lot of tight checking and grinding. We're the third line and a checking line and our job is to keep them off the scoreboard. When we get a goal like tonight, it's a bonus."
The Flyers' Ilkka Sinisalo was leveled by Mark Messier in the first period and departed for X-rays of his right shoulder. They were negative and he was back on the ice before the second period ended.
Doug Jarvis will be the Washington Capitals' lone representative at the "NHL TV Awards Special" on CBC in Toronto June 12, when the National Hockey League announces the recipients of its individual prizes for the 1984-85 season.
Jarvis, winner of the Selke Award last year as the NHL's best defensive forward, is a finalist again, along with Craig Ramsay of Buffalo.