EDMONTON, ALBERTA, MAY 31 -- The Edmonton Oilers, hockey's highest-scoring team, won their third Stanley Cup in four years tonight with a smothering defensive effort.

Limiting Philadelphia to two shots in the third period, the Oilers defeated the Flyers, 3-1, in the final game of a remarkable best-of-seven title series.

Philadelphia's comeback kids got out ahead for the first time in the series, but Edmonton rallied to win on goals by Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson. Last season, Edmonton was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Calgary Flames, who lost in the final series to the Montreal Canadiens.

Rookie goalie Ron Hextall, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, stopped 40 shots for the Flyers and until Anderson applied the clincher with 2:24 left, the Oilers had hit so many posts that it seemed Philadelphia might be destined to pull it out once again.

"It's a great honor to win the Conn Smythe, but I'd trade it for Stanley anytime," Hextall said. "It would have meant a lot more if we'd won. It's very disappointing to come this far and not win the Cup. We faced a lot of adversity, and we're not as talented a team as Edmonton, but we sure showed a lot of guts."

In three of the four previous games, the Flyers had come from at least two goals down to win, forcing this showdown, the first seventh game in a final series since 1971.

Tonight, though, the Oilers prevented any such heroics and Philadelphia had no chances worth mentioning after Kurri broke a 1-1 tie at 14:59 of the second period.

"The Edmonton Oilers played a fabulous game," said Philadelphia Coach Mike Keenan. "Give them credit for the way they checked in the third period. They didn't give us an opportunity to go to the net at all. They put the wood on us and didn't give us anything."

"We dug down deep and played our hearts out," said Wayne Gretzky, who set up Kurri's game-winner. "We outshot them and outplayed them. I knew we could. When it {the series} went from 3-1 to 3-3, suddenly we went from the greatest team anybody ever saw to goats. But we rebounded.

"To be on a Stanley Cup winner is a tremendous feeling. People say they get a great thrill from parachuting, sky diving, but the biggest thrill of my life is to pick up the Stanley Cup when the president {John Ziegler} hands it to me. This is the hardest Cup we ever won."

Things were tough for the Oilers from the start tonight. Messier was penalized for a cross check on Hextall after 34 seconds and Paul Coffey, after getting away with a cross check on Brian Propp, threw Propp down 39 seconds later and went off for holding.

The Flyers quickly benefited from the two-man advantage. Murray Craven, from a sharp angle at the left of goalie Grant Fuhr, banged a shot off Fuhr's stick into the net at 1:41.

The Oilers were still floundering, but Fuhr dove out to knock the puck off the stick of Doug Crossman, otherwise unchallenged in the slot. Then Fuhr was able to kick out a bid for a shorthanded goal by Rick Tocchet and it was still 1-0.

"Ron Hextall is a great goaltender," said Edmonton Coach Glen Sather. "He made a lot of good saves and he got a lot of help from his goal posts. But don't forget that Grant made some big saves in the first period. It was tough being down, 1-0, right at the start. If Grant doesn't keep it from getting to 2-0, we could have been in a lot of trouble."

One of those picture goals for which the Oilers are noted lifted them into a 1-1 tie at 7:45 of the first period.

Anderson eluded Lindsay Carson in the neutral zone, crossed the Flyers' blue line on the right wing and made an inside move on Mark Howe. Anderson then passed off to Kent Nilsson on the left wing and Nilsson's pass found Messier open for a tapin at the right post.

The Flyers almost bounced right back. A shot by Propp leaked through Fuhr's pads, but Marty McSorley beat two Flyers to the puck in the crease and cleared it.

Messier lined one off a crossbar with 6:15 left in the period and play was so furious that more than 5 1/2 minutes elapsed before a whistle gave the Oilers a chance to lodge a complaint.

The Oilers finally pulled ahead on a giveaway by Crossman, in the corner at Hextall's right. Pinched into the boards by Esa Tikkanen, Crossman tried to shove the puck ahead, but Gretzky intercepted it and fed Kurri in the near circle. Kurri one-timed it into the far corner for his 15th goal, high in the playoffs. Gretzky earned his 29th assist, one short of the record he set in 1985.

"They kept coming at us and coming at us," Crossman said. "We needed some bounces. But they got the bounces."

Kurri said, "Everybody was flying. When we skate well, we don't give anything to them."

It took a long time before the Oilers were able to gain any breathing room. In the first six minutes of the third period, Craig MacTavish and Tikkanen lined shots off the goal posts and a drive by Randy Gregg was deflected off the crossbar.

"I think we hit six posts in the game," Sather said. "After a while, you start wondering, but we were playing so well, I just couldn't believe we'd let this one get away."

The clincher came in startling fashion. Anderson carried the puck over the Flyers' blue line and, unchallenged by Howe, moved into the slot and blasted a 35-footer between Hextall's legs.

"I was trying my best to give us a chance to the last minute," Hextall said. "But he had a good, hard shot. I wish I could have stopped it, but give him credit. It was a tough one."

Howe was one of six Flyers playing hurt, along with Dave Poulin, Peter Zezel, Craven, Ron Sutter and Pelle Eklund. In addition, Tim Kerr, the Flyers' leading scorer, did not appear in the series because of a shoulder injury.

"None of those six would have played if this was a regular season game," Keenan said. "But I thought they deserved the chance to play tonight. I don't want to dwell on the injuries, because it looks like we're looking for excuses. We're not."