The Philadelphia Flyers gave it their best shots tonight, taking a 3-1 lead in the first 12 minutes. By the time the required 60 were finished, however, the Edmonton Oilers were 5-3 winners and just one step away from a second straight Stanley Cup.
Edmonton made good on four of six power-play opportunities, with Wayne Gretzky scoring twice, and took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven final series, which will resume here Thursday night. The Oilers have won 15 straight home playoff games, tying the Stanley Cup record set by Montreal.
The Flyers took a 3-2 lead in an action-filled first period that included an unsuccessful penalty shot, three power-play goals and a short-handed score. Each team had 10 shots on goal and there were several pucks that glanced off posts.
Rich Sutter's first Stanley Cup goal put Philadelphia in front after just 46 seconds. Edmonton goalie Grant Fuhr made a superb save on Derrick Smith, then Ron Sutter retrieved the puck and tried to jam it from behind. The puck caromed off the post at Fuhr's left, struck Rich Sutter's skate and slid across the goal line.
Flyer Dave Poulin, checked by Dave Hunter, retaliated with a high stick and was in the box when Paul Coffey tied the score at 4:22. Coffey connected from the right point as Philadelphia goalie Pelle Lindbergh was screened by his own defenseman, Mark Howe.
The goal was Coffey's 10th of the playoffs, a record for a defenseman. Bobby Orr (1970) and Brad Park (1978) shared the previous mark of nine.
The Flyers regained the lead at 6:38 while skating with a two-man advantage. First, Pat Hughes went off for using a high stick on Poulin, then Mark Messier was chased 42 seconds later for slashing Brian Propp.
Todd Bergen scored on the Flyers' first shot after Messier went to the penalty box, hitting the far corner from the top of the right wing circle.
The Flyers appeared to be in deep trouble when Doug Crossman was whistled for holding Glenn Anderson and had his penalty extended to four minutes because he whacked the puck down the ice in disgust.
But 15 seconds after he went off, Ron Sutter batted the puck away from Gretzky and sailed in on a short-handed breakaway. Messier caught him from behind and pulled him down, with Sutter adding some histrionics.
Referee Kerry Fraser, substituting for ailing Andy Van Hellemond, signaled a penalty shot, only the third in the history of the Stanley Cup finals. Like the earlier two, it proved futile, Fuhr blocking Sutter's shot with his right pad.
The Oilers swarmed around the Flyers' net and Lindbergh was fortunate to escape unscathed. Gretzky hit a post and the rebound came to Messier, who hurried the shot toward an almost empty net and banged the puck off the other post.
With Crossman still in the penalty box, Edmonton's point man, Charlie Huddy, fell and Smith raced unchecked down the left wing. He centered the puck to Murray Craven, who had beaten Coffey to the crease, and Craven deflected it in at 11:32 for the Flyers' fourth short-handed score of the playoffs. They had 20 in the regular season, second only to the Oilers' 25.
Flyer Peter Zezel hit a post on a two on one as Crossman returned. Then, Philadelphia's Ed Hospodar was penalized for slashing and the Oilers' power play, one for 14 entering the game, clicked for the second time. Huddy scored it at 18:23 with a drive over Lindbergh's right shoulder from beyond the right wing circle.
Late in the period, Messier came close to scoring off a faceoff in the Philadelphia end and Jari Kurri knocked the rebound off a post.
The Oilers outshot Philadelphia, 12-6, in the second period and took a 4-3 lead on goals by Anderson and Gretzky.
Anderson connected on the first shot of the period, crossing the Flyers' blue line and beating Lindbergh with a 50-footer low on the glove side after 21 seconds. Defenseman Brad Marsh obscured his goaltender's view on that one.
Fuhr made a sensational save on Rick Tocchet, sliding across with his right pad after Tocchet deked him at the finish of a breakaway created when Tocchet came out of the penalty box.
Gretzky was bumped against the boards midway through the period and limped to the bench, but he did not miss a shift. When the Flyers' Joe Paterson was penalized for hooking Kevin McClelland, Gretzky scored the Oilers' third power play goal in five chances.
Huddy fired a shot from the right point and it struck Crossman's leg. It bounced to Gretzky in the left wing circle and he hit the far corner of the net with a back-hander at 12:53.
It was Gretzky's 42nd point, adding to his playoff record. Coffey assisted to boost his playoff marks for a defensemen to 24 assists and 34 points.
Froese was in the Flyers' net at the start of the third period. He was the victim of Gretzky's second goal at 3:42, Edmonton's fourth power-play goal in six tries.