Ilkka Sinisalo slipped around the net and drove a quick backhand shot into the far corner of the net with just 38 seconds remaining Sunday night at Philadelphia to give the amazing Philadelphia Flyers a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
It was the 35th goal of the season for the former star of the Finnish National team and gave the young Flyers a club-record 11th victory in a row as well as the best record in the league.
Even when they won back-to-back titles in the mid-70s, the Flyers never won 11 in a row. The way this team is finishing the season, another Stanley Cup championship may be in the offing.
Almost nobody considered the Flyers a contender this season. It was a time for rebuilding and the Flyers brought in a 35-year-old rookie coach, Mike Keenan, to do the job. Even he is surprised with such quick results.
You know the Flyers are young when the oldest regular is defenseman Mark Howe. Why, it was just a few years ago (1980) that his father, the immortal Gordie Howe, retired.
Howe at 29 is the old man on one of the youngest teams ever to challenge for a professional championship. None of the other regulars are as old as 27 and many are just getting into their 20s.
A few, such as Howe, Sinisalo, leading scorer Tim Kerr (53 goals) and playmaker Brian Propp have been in the NHL several seasons and they serve as steadying influences on the rest.
The record winning streak has given the Flyers an eight-point lead in the tough Patrick Division and they now have 103 points, one more than the defending champion Edmonton Oilers.
It appeared, until late in the game, the Flyers would break their club record on the flukiest of goals. Defenseman Brad Marsh, who had scored only one goal in 73 games this season, hit a shot toward the Canadiens' goal in the last minute of the second period.
When the puck hit the sticks of two Montreal players, then caromed off goaltender Steve Penney's pads into the net, the Flyers led, 3-2.
Although the Canadiens, who charged back after giving up two early goals, forced most of the action, it wasn't until Mats Naslund knocked in a rebound with 2:46 left that they drew even.
Just when it appeared the game would go into overtime, Sinisalo came through with the game-winner.
The Canadiens, who beat the Flyers twice early in the season, missed a chance to take sole possession of first place in the Adams Division. Apparently, nobody is good enough to take charge.
The Sabres spotted the Bruins a 2-0 lead, then battled back. Mike Ramsey and John Tucker scored in the second period to get the Sabres even. Early in the third period, the Sabres, one point behind Montreal and Quebec, took the lead on Paul Cyr's 22nd goal.
But Tom Fergus tied the game at 3-3 with his 28th on a power play just a minute after Cyr scored.
Hartford 2, Quebec 1--Ordinarily, the Nordiques would have expected to take over first place, but, at Hartford, they ran into the hot Whalers.
The Whalers, eliminated from the playoffs later in the day when Boston won, backed the fine goaltending of Steve Weeks with a club-record fifth win in a row.
Weeks stopped 23 shots and blanked the Nordiques for 55 minutes before Alain Lemieux ended his bid for a shutout.
The Penguins needed a victory to move within three points of the New York Rangers in the fight for the final playoff spot in the Patrick Division.
Toronto 5, Detroit 3--John Anderson had three power-play goals at Detroit and Bill Derlago scored a short-handed goal to lead the Maple Leafs.
The victory kept alive the Leafs' slim hopes of winning the final playoff spot in the Norris Division.
New York Islanders 5, New York Rangers 2--Anders Kallur, getting a rare opportunity to play a regular shift, made the most of it at New York, scoring two goals to lead the Islanders.
It was the seventh loss in the last nine games for the Rangers, who are backing into a playoff spot. Both Pittsburgh and New Jersey have blown chances to close in on the slumping Rangers.
The Rangers have seven games remaining and lead the Penguins by five points and the Devils by seven.