The biggest shock arrived 10 minutes after the Whalers had dusted off Quebec in three straight.
The Whalers had eliminated the Nordiques from the Adams Division semifinals with a 9-4 thrashing Saturday night and had advanced to the divisional finals against Montreal.
John Anderson, with two goals and four assists, had fallen one point shy of the NHL playoff record of Wayne Gretzky. Kevin Dineen had five points and Ray Ferraro had two goals.
Hockey had come out from the dark, murky closet of years of defeat in Hartford as 15,126 fans had gone bonkers at the Civic Center. They had waved green towels, had shouted "Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!" and had serenaded the Nordiques with, "Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey goodbye."
None of this, however, was as shocking as what happened at 10:45 p.m.
"Well, you all wanted to see this and I'm only going to give it to you once," announced Whalers coach Jack Evans.
And then the man accused of stone-face stoicism broke into a smile as wide as the St. Lawrence River.The Nordiques, who finished first in the Adams Division, had what their followers called a "beautiful" dream of advancing to the Stanley Cup finals this season.
The Nordiques didn't even get past the best-of-five first round. They didn't even get one victory as the Adams Division regular-season titlists failed for the fifth straight season to advance beyond the divisional playoffs.
The Nordiques ran smack into Cinderella's team, which has become a legitimate playoff threat. The team with the silver skate now has the golden touch."Isn't this just great?" said Chairman and Managing General Partner Howard Baldwin.
For the Whalers and hockey in this town and state, it certainly is.
The Whalers, 15-3-2 in their past 20 games and 11-1-2 in their past 14, are going to the Adams Division finals against the Canadiens, who swept Boston with a 4-3 victory in Boston Garden on Saturday night. Game 1 is Thursday in Montreal.
La grosse femme (the fat lady) sang last night for the Nordiques, but now the Whalers hope she begins tuning her vocal cords for Les Canadiens. The Whalers will cross the St. Lawrence again. The Whalers have become an unwelcome third party to the annual Battle of Quebec.
The Whalers, who finished in fourth place after a 34-day playoff drive, and their city are working on their own set of beautiful dreams.
With Mike Liut, the Whalers got better goaltending than the Nordiques.
They got better play from their defense than the Nordiques, although Quebec was battered by injuries on the blue line.And the Whalers got more offense than the Nordiques. The line of Ron Francis, Anderson and Dineen, which had one power-play goal in the first two games, broke loose for 13 points in this one. Of course, a 4-for-6 night on the power play helped in that respect.
Quebec's high-scoring Michel Goulet didn't get a goal in the series. Peter Stastny, battling tonsillitis and the choke hold of the Whalers defense, didn't get a goal.
The Whalers outscored the Nordiques, 16-7, in the three games. Can there be an argument?
"It's a great feeling. We did it," Evans said. "The boys played some great hockey tonight. Anderson had a great game. Joel Quenneville on defense. Dave Tippett had an outstanding game. Just a great effort. I'm delighted. I never dreamed we'd sweep them three straight."
"The thing that had bothered us all year was trying to shut down Goulet and the two Stastnys. They had scored half their goals against us. We had great goaltending from Mike Liut in the first game. We got goals from [Paul] MacDermid, people we weren't really expecting from. Tonight we just got rolling."
Dineen scored on the power play and Tippettt scored short-handed. Suddenly, at 5 minutes and 22 seconds of the first period, it was 2-0. Goalie Clint Malarchuk put the puck in himself on the first goal after Dineen had deflected a shot off the post. Then Malarchuk got caught between deciding to chase a loose puck or not on Tippett's goal.
After Alain Lemieux, called up from Fredericton on Friday, jammed in a loose puck on the power play to make it 2-1, Francis put the Whalers back up by two at 15:08 of the period. Catching a confused Nordiques defense on a 2-on-2 play, Dineen took a drop pass from Francis and then threaded a sweet pass back to Francis to set up the score.
Quebec's Brett Ashton scored short-handed and Ferraro scored on the power play to make it 4-2 after one period.
Quebec's defense, with Normand Rochefort and Dave Shaw out with shoulder injuries and Gilbert Delorme playing with an injured thumb, was weakened further in the first period. A pushing-and-shoving match developed along the rear boards midway through the period. Randy Moller wanted to get at Ferraro at the worse way and even knocked down a linesman in an attempt to do it. The reward was two roughing penalties, a game misconduct and the knowledge that he did not help his team on this night.
Ulf Samuelsson gave the Whalers a 5-2 lead 2:07 into the second period with a goal against Mario Gosselin, who had replaced Malarchuk.
Hunter made it 5-3 at 11:08 with a shot that replays indicated did not go in the net. Hunter, positioned to the right of Liut, sent the puck onto the goal line before it kicked off Liut's skate and away from the line. Goal judge Carleton McDiarmid of Montreal convinced referee Ron Hoggarth it was ruled a goal.
"I couldn't understand it," said Evans, considering the Montreal-Quebec rivalry. "I thought it would have to hit the back of the net for it to count for them."
The Whalers were upset. But Hoggarth quicky upset the Nordiques at 13:01 of the period when Pat Price was called for holding and Steve Patrick was nailed for cross checking on the same play.
With a 5-on-3 situation, Ferraro scored seven seconds later. With a 5-on-4 situation, Anderson scored 26 seconds after Ferraro. It was 7-3 and the third period would add little except to the total of 108 penalty minutes.
Surprised by the sweep?
"Absolutely," Quenneville said. "Nobody expected it. It's a great feeling."
"Everybody's calling us the giant killers, but I thought we were the hot team coming in," Dineen said. "You've got to expect it."
"I told a couple guys on the team we'd sweep them," Stewart Gavin said.
"I think Quebec knew we were hot, but maybe they didn't know what level we were playing at," Francis said.
"I feel a little bad for Quebec," said Anderson, traded by the Nordiques to Hartford on March 8. "I'm glad it's over."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times