Oilers Tighten Grip on Stanley Cup : They Finish Off Bruins, 6-3, Win 4th NHL Title in 5 Years
When the fog lifted and light again shone on the Stanley Cup championship series, Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers again stood head and shoulders above the rest of the National Hockey League.
The incomparable Gretzky led the way as the Oilers completed their march through the playoffs Thursday night with a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins, making off with the Stanley Cup for the second straight season and the fourth time in five years.
Is this a dynasty?
“I don’t think so,” Oiler Coach Glen Sather said. “That makes it seem like you’re bragging.”
Why be humble?
In front of a capacity crowd of 17,502 at the Northlands Coliseum, where they were 11-0 during the playoffs, the Oilers buried the overmatched Bruins, completing a convincing, if unusual, sweep of the series.
Officially, this was Game 5, but in reality it was a replay of Game 4, which was played in a fog Tuesday night at the Boston Garden before being cut short by a power failure late in the second period with the score tied.
Thus, the Bruins will go down in history as the first victims of a four-game sweep to lose three times on the road.
“I am not going to kid anybody,” Boston’s Steve Kasper said. “They were a lot better than we were.”
Gretzky scored one goal, assisted on two others and accepted his second Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player.
Gretzky, who also won the Conn Smythe in 1985 when the Oilers won their second championship, established two more NHL records, including most assists in the playoffs (31 in 19 games) and most in the final series (10).
“Wayne had that look in his eyes and the flush in his cheeks,” Sather said. “You knew he was going to make all the right moves. He was doing it every time he was on the ice. His line was scary.”
Gretzky had a hand in 13 of the 21 goals scored by the Oilers in the series. His linemate, Esa Tikkanen, scored twice Thursday night and had six goals in the last three games of the series, including a first-period goal in the game that was canceled Tuesday night.
“I felt the best I’ve ever felt at the end of a season,” said Gretzky, who credited his well-being to a lighter workload during the regular season, when he missed 16 games with knee and eye injuries.
Said teammate Mark Messier: “He played like he never has before.”
And Bruin Coach Terry O’Reilly said: “It’s too bad he’s out here in Edmonton. There should be a league rule that he has to be passed around from team to team. We had a player like that in our town for a while--Bobby Orr. It does make a difference.”
As well as he played, though, Gretzky was not unaided as the Oilers left the Bruins in ruins.
The Oiler defense, or “the six most underrated guys on the team,” in O’Reilly’s estimation, again clamped down on the Bruins, who were limited to 45 shots on goal, including 19 Thursday, in the three games at Edmonton.
“A lot goes unsaid about their defense, but I think they really did a job on us,” O’Reilly said. “They’re big and strong, they worked hard, they checked hard and they moved the puck up to the forwards.”
And the forwards put it into the net.
The Oilers took control in the second period, scoring three goals to break a 2-2 tie.
“Our team seemed a little nervous and uptight,” Sather said of the first period. “The Bruins were relaxed and playing hard.”
That would change.
Tikkanen pulled the Oilers even with a power-play goal at 15 minutes 3 seconds of the first period, chasing down a rebound in the right corner and firing a shot that caromed off Bruin defenseman Gord Kluzak and off the leg of goaltender Andy Moog before settling into the net.
Then, at 6:38 of the second period, Kevin McClelland took a pass behind the Bruin net and fed a pass in front to Mike Krushelnyski, whose shot from the left side of the slot gave the Oilers a 3-2 lead.
At 9:44, with Michael Thelven of the Bruins in the penalty box for holding Tikkanen, Gretzky was stationed to the right of the net when he took a pass through the slot from Tikkanen and lifted the puck into the net.
Not long afterward, the crowd chanted, “Sweep, sweep, sweep,” and a fan behind the Bruin bench held up a sign that read: “The end is near.”
Craig Simpson made it 5-2 at 19:58, re-directing a pass by Gretzky after Gretzky carried the puck down the left side, cut to the middle after crossing the blue line and sent the puck toward the net.
“An enormous goal,” Sather called it.
Tikkanen scored again at 1:21 of the third period, making it 6-2.
“That’s a great team that just beat us,” O’Reilly said.
The Oilers were 16-2 in the playoffs. . . . Wayne Gretzky had 30 assists in 18 games in the 1985 playoffs and had 9 assists in last season’s seven-game final against the Philadelphia Flyers. . . . Gretzky had points in 18 of the Oilers’ 19 playoff games, including the last 17. His playoff totals: 12 goals and 31 assists in 19 games. . . . Goaltender Grant Fuhr, who appeared in 94 of the Oilers’ 99 games this season, made his 37th straight playoff appearance, improving his record during the streak to 30-6. . . . Only the Detroit Red Wings, who have won the Stanley Cup 7 times in 18 appearances, have lost in the final as many times as the Bruins, who have won it 5 times in 16 appearances. . . . Only two teams, other than the Oilers, have won the Stanley Cup since the Flyers won their second straight NHL title in 1975. The Montreal Canadiens won four straight (1976-79) and interrupted the Oilers’ reign by winning again in 1986, and the New York Islanders also won four straight (1980-83).