Hockey's longest season has been spared a finale in June. The Edmonton Oilers did not spare the Philadelphia Flyers, however, as they won their second straight Stanley Cup tonight with a crushing 8-3 victory.
The Oilers' eight goals were the most scored in a Cup-deciding game since 1917, when the Seattle Metropolitans finished off the Montreal Canadiens, 9-1.
Wayne Gretzky had a goal and three assists in another spectacular performance and received the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.
Paul Coffey and Mark Messier each had two goals and an assist as Edmonton completed a four-game sweep after dropping the opener in Philadelphia.
Afterward, Edmonton Coach Glen Sather tossed out a challenge to the Soviets, or anyone else who thinks they are capable of beating the Oilers.
"I think we're absolutely the best team in the world," Sather said. "We're a great hockey team. I'd like to play anybody who wants to play us."
For a while, it appeared the game and season might never end. When the Flyers drew back-to-back penalties 10 seconds apart in the third period, Coach Mike Keenan called his players to the bench and a lengthy delay occurred before he sent them back out.
Then, after Edmonton goalie Grant Fuhr foiled Dave Poulin on the second penalty shot in two games, a brawl broke out that lengthened the season by another 20 minutes.
Edmonton's Don Jackson fought Dave Brown, Brad Marsh and several Flyers on the bench before Marsh pounded him into the ice. Keenan stood at the glass next to his bench and, separated by a policeman, screamed at Sather, who responded with an obscene gesture.
"We were having a discussion on the altercation that was happening on the ice," Keenan said.
"I was upset about what happened on the ice," Sather said. "I don't think it was necessary."
The events that definitely were unnecessary included Marsh throwing a glove into the stands and Jackson heaving a water bottle onto the ice as he went out the exit.
Overcoming the silliness that seems to take up so much attention at what should be hockey's finest hour was the brilliant play of Gretzky.
All three of his assists came on sensational passes; he made at least three more that should have been converted into scores.
"Wayne deserved the Conn Smythe. He played just great," said Fuhr, a leading candidate himself as he earned a record-tying 15th playoff victory. "Every time we needed a big goal, he got it."
A torn tendon in his right leg ended Philadelphia goalie Pelle Lindbergh's season a few hours early and Bob Froese made his first start since April 2 in the Flyers' net. Edmonton bombed him with 41 shots, building a 4-1 lead before the first period ended.
"We knew Froese hadn't played for a long time, so he'd either be sensational or have a hard time," Sather said. "It's a difficult situation for anybody."
Jari Kurri opened the scoring at 4:54, after Gretzky beat Marsh into the right wing corner and put a beautiful backhanded pass on Kurri's stick in the near circle. The Finn fired the puck over Froese's right shoulder for his 19th playoff goal, tying Reg Leach's 1976 mark for the Flyers.
Thirty-seven seconds later Willy Lindstrom eluded defender Mark Howe and beat Froese from the right wing circle to make it 2-0.
After Rich Sutter scored the first of his two goals for the Flyers, Gretzky dazzled the sellout crowd of 17,498 once again. This time he picked off a Derrick Smith pass and faked defender Miroslav Dvorak out of his path before dropping the puck to Coffey, who put it over Froese's right shoulder.
Before the period ended, Coffey connected on a power play 50-footer, the puck popping out of Froese's glove and slipping under the crossbar.
The Oilers removed any doubt of the outcome with a three-goal second period in which they outshot Philadelphia, 17-8.
Messier scored the first of two unassisted goals on a breakaway after racing past the bewildered Dvorak. Then it was Gretzky time again, as the Great One made a perfect centering pass that left Mike Krushelnyski time to count the stitches on Froese's glove before lifting the puck over the helpless goalie.
Gretzky scored his seventh goal of the final series after Kurri, tied up by two Flyers in the slot, managed to shove him the puck in the right wing circle. That came moments after Gretzky hit a post. Since Kurri, Mark Napier and Krushelnyski all shot wide after Gretzky passes left them open, one can only imagine how one-sided the final score could have been.
Poulin was awarded the fourth penalty shot in the history of the final series -- and second in two games -- after he was hooked down by Coffey on a short-handed breakaway with the Oilers two men up. Since Poulin got off a good shot, Edmonton protested referee Bryan Lewis' decision, but it became immaterial when Fuhr stopped Poulin again when the Flyers' captain deked and flipped a backhander on the penalty shot.
"He backhanded it right on top of my stick," Fuhr said. "I didn't expect to see any penalty shots, but it just so happened I got two in two nights. That's my job -- to stop the puck."
Gretzky finished the playoffs with record totals of 30 assists and 47 points. He now has 100 career playoff assists, one fewer than all-time leader Denis Potvin.
Coffey, who played the last four games with his hip frozen following an injury, finished with 12 goals, 25 assists and 37 points, all playoff records for a defenseman.