The Philadelphia Flyers, who wanted very badly to take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup final before departing the friendly confines of the Spectrum, now are faced with the chore of winning at least one game in Edmonton. It will not be easy -- as the New York Islanders learned a year ago.
Just as the Flyers enter Saturday's third game at Northlands Coliseum tied at 1-1, so, too, the Islanders traveled west a year ago following a standoff in two games at Nassau Coliseum. The Oilers swept the three games in Edmonton and claimed the Cup.
Although the Oilers' regular-season record of 26-7-7 on home ice did not approach the Flyers' league-leading 32-4-4, Edmonton has won its last 13 playoff games at home. When the games are meaningful, the Oilers generally respond.
The right of the last personnel change is the biggest factor in Edmonton's favor, because it means Coach Glen Sather can keep Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri away from the tenacious checking of Ron Sutter and Derrick Smith. That pair, along with Rick Tocchet, made life miserable for the Oilers' stars in the Spectrum, although Gretzky was able to score an important goal in Edmonton's 3-1 victory Thursday.
"It will help us psychologically, if nothing else," Sather said. "I think a team's best line will always beat a checking line, especially if it forces the checking line to play a lot. And we're capable of moving Gretzky and (Mark) Messier from line to line when it becomes necessary.
"But there's no question they did a good checking job on us, and we'll be trying to generate some more offense at home. I'm not predicting anything. I'd like to think of us as a good hockey team that does what it has to do to win. And the Flyers will do everything possible to stop us from doing that."
Philadelphia Coach Mike Keenan expects the Oilers to open up more offensively, rather than continue the suffocating defensive play that limited the Flyers to 18 shots Thursday. That matched Philadelphia's season low, in a 6-0 loss at Washington Dec. 26.
"I think they'll go into a more offensive style," Keenan said. "First of all, at home they seem to like to play a wide-open game. Second, they won't be critical of the home ice, and third, they have the last change."
The "home ice" remark was directed at Sather and a number of his players, who considered the Spectrum ice substandard and complained about weird bounces of the puck.
The Flyers are aware they have a difficult task ahead of them, even though they have won their last two regular-season games in Edmonton and have not lost there since the 1981-82 season.
"We know we'll have to play our hearts out in Edmonton, the same as we did in Game 1," said center Peter Zezel. "We know they're the Stanley Cup champions. They outskated and outworked us here and they deserved to win."
Said defenseman Doug Crossman: "We have to go back and regroup. We know we have to bring either the Cup or a game back to Philly, hopefully the Cup. We're going to be there for the next three games in Edmonton."
Defenseman Ed Hospodar said, "We've beaten the Islanders at their place and we've won at Quebec, so there was no great pressure on us to win the first two here. Naturally, our objective was to win both here, but what we have now is a best-of-five series with all the marbles on the line. Tomorrow's another day. That's how we're approaching it."
Meanwhile, just as the Oilers scoffed at reporters who went overboard in scorning them after Game 1, they discounted suggestions that they now are headed for a sweep in Edmonton.
"The series is still tied 1-all," Sather said. "Because we won this one doesn't mean a thing. The Flyers are a well-coached, disciplined team with a lot of underrated players. You'd better be ready to play them or they're going to beat you."
If they weren't celebrating anything, the Oilers at least were feeling more relaxed. Only three teams in history have won a final series after falling behind, 2-0.
"Winning this one meant a lot, because otherwise we'd have gone home down, 2-0," said defenseman Paul Coffey. "It's no secret we stunk out the joint in the first game and to do that again we would have really been down. I don't even want to think about what might have happened after that."