Fans in the cheap seats in the upper deck of the Northlands Coliseum were drinking red wine from a brass replica of the Stanley Cup before Thursday night’s fifth game of the Stanley Cup finals.
“I’m getting a head start on the celebration,” said an Oiler fan who was wearing a white hard-hat with the team logo.
A few hours later, Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers were drinking expensive champagne from Lord Stanley’s battered old Cup after they captured their second consecutive Stanley Cup by routing the battered Philadelphia Flyers, 8-3, to win the National Hockey League championship series, four games to one.
“This was like having a second child,” Oiler owner Peter Pocklington said in the madhouse that was the Oilers’ dressing room after the game.
Gretzky had one goal and three assists as the Oilers won their 16th consecutive home playoff game dating back to last season to set a National Hockey League record, surpassing the Montreal Canadiens’ mark of 15, set from 1968-71. The Oilers, hockey’s newest dynasty, broke 24 NHL playoff records.
“I think this is absolutely the best hockey team in the world,” Oiler Coach Glen Sather said.
Sather, who has won two Stanley Cups and the Canada Cup in the last year, said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll return as coach next season. Sather is also the team’s president and general manager.
“John Muckler and I will be co-coaches if I come back, and he’ll be the coach if I don’t,” Sather said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Ask my wife.”
Gretzky won the Conn Smythe Trophy, which goes to the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs. He beat out teammates Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Grant Fuhr for the award.
“Winning the Conn Smythe Trophy is a great thing,” Gretzky said. “From my heart I wish I could put Paul’s (Coffey) name next to mine. It must have been the closest vote in the history of the award.
“We have gotten a reputation of being arrogant and a flash in the pan. We wanted the second Cup more than the first one to show people than we’re not a flash in the pan, and we worked extremely hard to get it.”
Gretzky scored 17 goals and had 30 assists for 47 points in 18 playoff games this year, breaking his playoff record of 38 points, set in 1983.
The Oilers lost the first game of the series last week in Philadelphia as Gretzky failed to get off a shot and then came back to win the next four as Gretzky went on a scoring spree. He finished the series with six goals and four assists.
“Wayne was magnificent, as only he can be,” Sather said.
This game was all but over in the first 5 1/2 minutes after Kurri and Willy Lindstrom scored scored goals against backup Flyer goalie Bob Froese in a span of 37 seconds. Pelle Lindbergh, the Flyers’ starting goalie, missed the game with a knee injury. Tim Kerr, the Flyers’ leading scorer, missed the final two games of the series with a sprained knee.
Kurri, who was shut out in the first four games of the series, tied the record for most goals in one playoff year which was set when Reggie Leach of the Flyers scored 19 goals in 1976.
Coffey ended the first period by scoring back-to-back goals and the Oilers led, 4-1, at the end of the first 20 minutes and were ahead, 7-1, going into the third. Mark Messier, who won the Smythe Trophy last year, added two unassisted goals. And left wing Mike Krushelnyski had one goal.
Krushelnyski was so excited after the game that he uttered an obscenity as he was being interviewed on a Canadian TV network: “Just (bleeping) unbelievable.”
It was the largest winning margin in a Stanley Cup decider since 1948, when the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings, 7-2, to complete a four-game sweep.
But there was a big brawl with 4:38 left in the third period which delayed the game for 10 minutes and resulted in three players being ejected. It started out as a fight between Flyer right wing Dave Brown and Oiler defenseman Don Jackson, but quickly escalated.
The highlight was when Sather traded insults with Flyer Coach Mike Keenan on the bench.
“I have no comment on what was said,” Sather said. “It’s over.”
Said Keenan: “We were just talking about what was going on on the ice.” Brown got five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct. Flyer defenseman Brad Marsh got five minutes for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Marsh threw one of his gloves into the stands as he was being led off the ice.
Jackson got two minute for roughing, two for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct. Oiler center Kevin McClelland got five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct.
Although Gretzky won the car, the seventh he has won in his career, the Oilers had several other heroes.
Fuhr, who all but stood on his head to block shots, tied Billy Smith’s record of 15 playoff wins, set in 1980-82.
Fuhr started all 18 playoff games for the Oilers, posting a record of 15-3. He stopped two penalty shots in the finals. In Tuesday’s fourth game Fuhr made a stick save on a penalty shot by Flyer center Ron Sutter. The Flyers were awarded another penalty shot in the third period of Thursday’s game after Coffey hauled down left wing Dave Poulin on a breakaway. But Poulin missed the penalty shot, shooting wide to the right.
“Wayne deserved to win it. Whenever we needed a big goal he got it for us. He always plays great,” Fuhr said. “I think this was the best game we’ve played all year.”
Coffey scored 12 goals in the playoffs to set a league record for most goals by a defenseman in one playoff year. Bobby Orr and Brad Park of Boston held the old mark of nine goals. Coffey also had 25 assists.
The Flyers were hurting going into the game.
Lindbergh, who won more games than any other goalie in the league this season, missed the game because of a knee injury. Lindbergh tore the tendon which connects the quadriceps to the right knee bone.
Lindbergh suffered the injury when he made a save in the final 30 seconds of the fifth game of the Flyers Wales Conference final series against Quebec. He reaggravated the injury when he made a save against Krushelnyski in the second period of the fifth game on Tuesday night.
“I can’t bend the knee,” Lindbergh said. “It’s not the way you want to end a season, but the doctor said I shouldn’t play.”
The Flyers were also without center Tim Kerr, their leading scorer. Kerr missed the final two games of the series with a sprained right knee.
But the Flyers wouldn’t use injuries as an excuse.
“It’s not an excuse,” said Bobby Clarke, the Flyers’ general manager. “Injuries are a part of the game. We’re really happy with the season we had, and the way this team worked to get here.”
The Oilers didn’t waste any time attacking Froese, Lindbergh’s replacement, in the first period. Froese hadn’t started a game since April 2, when he made 29 saves in a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers.
Coffey had two goals and Gretzky and defenseman Charlie Huddy had two assists apiece in the first period as the Oilers built a three-goal lead.