BOSTON, MAY 24 -- To the casual hockey fan, the Edmonton Oilers were the team from a far-off place that let Wayne Gretzky get away.

Tonight, nearly two years after trading away The Great One to Los Angeles, they became known for something else. Edmonton now is the team that got rid of Gretzky and still was good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

Imagine that.

Led by the consistently stellar play of goaltender Bill Ranford -- who began the season as a backup and finished it as the playoffs' most valuable player -- the Oilers defeated the Boston Bruins, 4-1, tonight to win the Stanley Cup, four games to one, before a sellout crowd of 14,448 at Boston Garden.

"This team has rebounded quicker than anyone ever expected from the loss of Wayne Gretzky," said left wing Craig Simpson, who scored the Oilers' second goal. "It's definitely the start of a new era for us. We've worked very hard to make our own identity, and we were successful at doing that."

The Oilers, who didn't even win their division in the regular season, outplayed Boston, which had the best regular season record in the NHL. It was the players who once toiled in Gretzky's long shadow who won the Stanley Cup for Edmonton, the franchise's fifth since 1984 but the first won on the opponent's home ice.

It also was the first Stanley Cup for Edmonton Coach John Muckler, who became the second rookie coach in 20 years to guide a team to the title. Montreal's Jean Perron did it in 1986.

"It's probably the nicest of the five, because coming out of training camp we were never expected to be here," Muckler said.

After a scoreless first period the Oilers exploded for two goals in the second period and two more in the third before Boston scored its lone goal with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the game, important only because it ruined Ranford's perfect night.

Veteran wing Glenn Anderson scored the first goal and set up Simpson for the second as Edmonton built its lead. Steve Smith and Joe Murphy added third-period goals before the Bruins' Lyndon Byers scored to avoid the embarrassment of a shutout.

"It definitely hasn't sunk in," said Ranford, a former Bruin who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' most valuable player while playing in place of injured Grant Fuhr. "I just can't believe it happened. I was nervous throughout, and then we got a couple breaks, scored a couple goals and we played an excellent third period."

By then, the game was essentially over, Edmonton's speed and unrelenting passing and weaving simply too much for the weary Bruins. But it was most definitely not over as the second period began, with the game still scoreless and both teams mindful of the fact that, in this series, the team that scored first won every game.

The strange twists and turns of hockey never were more evident than in the first minute or so of that second period. Had the Bruins scored first, what a different game this would have been. And it almost was when Craig Janney, their second-leading playoff scorer who did not get a point in the finals, broke in on Ranford 17 seconds into the period.

Janney slid in front of the goal and tried to push the puck in from the left side, but Ranford slid with him, dived and reached. Prone, he stopped Janney's almost certain goal.

Then things changed drastically. One minute later, 1:17 into the period, the Oilers scored when Anderson split the Boston defense and scored unassisted.

It was an incredible effort. Anderson picked up the puck near center ice, with defenseman Don Sweeney backpedaling, mirroring his every move. Anderson poked the puck between Sweeney's skates, raised his stick over Sweeney's head, side-stepped him with one quick burst and was gone.

Just as softly as Anderson passed Sweeney, he flicked the puck between goaltender Andy Moog's pads and it trickled into the net for Edmonton's 1-0 lead.

Little more than eight minutes later, it was 2-0. Again, Anderson was the catalyst. He dashed down the ice from the Oilers' blueline after a blocked Boston shot, carried the puck toward the left circle, then wheeled around and passed the puck off his backhand to Simpson, who was coming along behind him.

Simpson sped toward Moog, waited until he committed, then backhanded the puck over the goaltender for his 16th goal of the playoffs. Driving hard, Simpson followed the puck into the net, leaving everyone in doubt for a few moments whether the action resulted in a goal or simply an unhinged post. When everyone unpiled, the red light was blazing and the Oilers were up by two with 9:31 gone in the second period.

Although the Bruins had their chances, it was clear they no longer had the heart for the effort. The team that whipped the Washington Capitals in four straight games just a couple weeks ago looked worn and meek against the waves of Oilers who kept coming up to meet them.

The Bruins scored just eight goals in the five-game series. Cam Neely, who led the Bruins with 28 points, had just four in this series, not one of them a goal. Janney, Bob Carpenter, Brian Propp and Dave Christian -- big guns all -- were completely shut out by the Oilers.

"In Game 4 {a 5-1 Edmonton victory}, the momentum clearly shifted their way," said Boston Coach Mike Milbury. "And they forced it on us. The momentum was something they created and we were unable to stop it."