Goaltender Mike Vernon bounced back in stellar fashion and the Calgary Flames again got the first goal on their way to a 4-1 victory last night in Edmonton, Alberta, that left the defending Stanley Cup champion Oilers one loss away from playoff elimination.
"The kid has been very, very good for us," Calgary Coach Bob Johnson said of Vernon, who was pulled in Thursday night's 7-4 loss in Game 4. "He's won up here before so we owed him the chance. He got us where we are."
The victory gave the Flames a 3-2 lead in the NHL Smythe Division final with a chance to wrap up the series in the next game in Calgary on Monday night.
"The key was that I saw most of the shots," Vernon said. "I think the guys did a good job in front of the net tying up their guys. I just had to find the puck and tried to steer it to the corners. If I didn't, the guys did."
Lanny McDonald and Joel Otto scored about two minutes apart midway through the second period to end a 2-2 tie and give Calgary the two-goal margin that allowed it to tightened up defensively.
" The Flames played their best game this year; they were pretty solid," said Edmonton goaltender Grant Fuhr. "They got the breaks and we didn't and that pretty well sums that up."
The Flames, however, made most of their breaks with aggressive play and excellent teamwork.
That teamwork was especially evident in the third period when the Oilers tried desperately to fight their way back into the game. Their hopes were quashed by the play of Vernon and the defense.
As they did in three of the first four games, the Flames scored first, Dan Quinn getting the goal at 19:29 of the opening period.
Wayne Gretzky tied the score early in the second before McDonald and Otto struck for the decisive goals at 12:35 and 14:59.
Doug Risebrough got their final goal into an empty net in the final minute of play.
With a two-goal lead and only one period to play, the Flames tightened their defense in the third. That, combined with Edmonton's push to offense, resulted in most of the final 20 minutes being played in Calgary's zone.
But Vernon, shaky in Game 4, was stronger last night. Although Edmonton didn't get an enormous number of shots on him in the final period, the ones they did get were either screened or from point-blank range. None got by Vernon.
*Blues 4, Maple Leafs 3: Right wing Mark Reeds scored into the upper right-hand corner with a wrist shot at 7:11 of overtime, giving the Blues a come-from-behind victory over Toronto in St. Louis and a 3-2 lead in their NHL playoff series.
The Blues can wrap up the best-of-seven Norris Division final in Game 6 on Monday night in Toronto. A seventh game, if necessary, will be played in St. Louis next Wednesday.
Reeds' shot from the right faceoff circle, his second playoff goal, came on Gino Cavallini's setup to climax St. Louis' comeback from a three-goal deficit.
Before Reeds' game-winner, St. Louis failed to convert an opportunity created by an open net early in the overtime and the Maple Leafs' Wendel Clark clanked a hard shot off a goal post at the other end of the ice.