Paths to the Final
For the third straight year, the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers finished the regular season with the two best records in the NHL. While the Oilers success came from their vaunted offense, the Flyers relied on grit, defensive play, and solid goaltending from Vezina Trophy winner Ron Hextall.
The Oilers cruised into the Finals with relative ease, losing only two games in the process. They beat the Los Angeles Kings in five games, swept the Winnipeg Jets, and then beat the Detroit Red Wings in five to win the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for the fourth time in five years. The Flyers, meanwhile, had a much harder road. It took them six games to knock off the New York Rangers, went the full seven against the New York Islanders, and then beat the Montreal Canadiens in six to claim their second Prince of Wales Trophy in three years.
The Oilers and Flyers met in the finals for the second time in three years. This time, Edmonton was the regular season champion with 50 wins and 106 points, and Philadelphia was second with 46 wins and 100 points.
This was a re-match of the 1985 Stanley Cup Finals, where the Oilers beat the Flyers in five games. Unlike the 1985 final, this series went to seven games. Edmonton took the first two games at home, then split in Philadelphia. However, the Flyers won the next two games, one in Edmonton and one back in Philadelphia by one goal, to force a deciding seventh game. Edmonton won game seven to earn its third Stanley Cup in four seasons.
During the Stanley Cup presentation, Oilers captain Wayne Gretzky would give the Cup to Steve Smith, who one year earlier scored on his own net that led to their downfall against the Calgary Flames in the Smythe Division Final. Ron Hextall would receive the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts.
|Sunday, May 17||Edmonton Oilers||4 – 2||Philadelphia Flyers||Northlands Coliseum|
Tied at 1–1 after 40 minutes of play, the Oilers put the game away with a three-goal burst in the third period on scores by Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri. Gretzky registered a goal and an assist in the onslaught as part of a 4–2 win. The Flyers outshot Edmonton 31–26.
|Tuesday, May 20||Edmonton Oilers||3 – 2||OT||Philadelphia Flyers||Northlands Coliseum|
This time, the Flyers led 2–1 after two periods. Despite matching the Oilers line for line and speed for speed, Edmonton burned Philly with a third-period goal, then on the game-winner by Kurri, who took advantage of some disorganized defensive play by the Flyers in overtime to score the game-winning goal with a wide-open chance in a 3–2 overtime victory.
|Friday, May 22||Philadelphia Flyers||5 – 3||Edmonton Oilers||The Spectrum|
Looking to take a convincing 3–0 series lead, Edmonton came out firing, taking a 2–0 lead after one period on goals by Mark Messier and Coffey, then stretching it to 3–0 on Anderson's fluke breakaway goal 1:49 into the second.
With their backs against the wall, the Flyers began a comeback on second-period goals by Murray Craven and Peter Zezel. Early in the third, tallies 17 seconds apart by Scott Mellanby and Brad McCrimmon tied the game, then put the Flyers ahead 4–3. For the remainder of the period, the Flyers gamely kept the Oilers potent offense at bay until Brian Propp's empty-net goal sealed a 5–3 win.
Until this point, no team had ever rebounded from a 3–0 deficit to win a game in the Finals, and the Flyers won their first-ever playoff game after yielding a game's first three goals.
|Sunday, May 24||Philadelphia Flyers||1 – 4||Edmonton Oilers||The Spectrum|
The momentum from game three did not carry over for Philadelphia. Gretzky notched three assists as the Oilers won, 4–1, and took a three games to one series lead. In a relatively sedate affair, the most shocking event came when Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall viciously chopped his stick across the back of the legs of Edmonton's Kent Nilsson in the third period when trailing 4–1. Hextall was apparently incensed that Anderson and other Oilers had cruised through the goal crease untouched and unpenalized during the game, and took out his frustration on the last Oiler he happened to see skate by. Nilsson was uninjured by Hextall's actions. Hextall would be suspended for the first eight games of 1987-88.
|Tuesday, May 26||Edmonton Oilers||3 – 4||Philadelphia Flyers||Northlands Coliseum|
Since the plans for a future victory parade were already published in the day's papers, the Oilers looked like those plans would come to fruition when they dented Hextall for two quick first-period goals. Although the Flyers got one back and trailed 2–1 after one period, Hextall let Edmonton's third goal of the game, a tip-in by Marty McSorley with nearly two minutes gone in the second slip between his arm and body, time was growing short. Facing the end of their season, the Flyers clawed back and tied the game, 3–3 on goals by Doug Crossman and Pelle Eklund. With almost six minutes played in the third, Propp fed Rick Tocchet in the slot for the go-ahead score. Hextall and the Flyers defense clamped down on the Oilers the rest of the way and the series came back to Philadelphia.
|Thursday, May 28||Philadelphia Flyers||3 – 2||Edmonton Oilers||The Spectrum|
With a chance to close out the series without the pressure of home ice, Edmonton took a 2–0 lead against a hesitant Flyers club on a disputed goal by Kevin Lowe and a stuffer by checking winger Kevin McClelland. The Oilers took control of the game in all aspects, outshooting Philly 15–5 in the opening 20 minutes. Things were not looking up until Lindsay Carson managed to thread a puck through Grant Fuhr's pads a little more than seven minutes into the second period. The Oilers kept the pressure on, and carried play into the third period. However, Anderson's careless high-sticking penalty with eight minutes left in regulation led to Propp's electric game-tying goal, snapping a shot high into the left corner of the net.
Only 84 seconds later, little-used Flyer defenceman J. J. Daigneault stepped up to a dying puck inside the Oilers blue line, and cranked the puck just inside the right post to give the Flyers a 3–2 advantage. The only threat to that lead came with 10 seconds left, when Mark Messier picked off Hextall's attempted clear, broke in, and took one shot into Hextall's pads and a second over the top of the net. Mark Howe knocked down a last-ditch Oiler effort at the buzzer, and the Finals headed to a seventh game for the first time since 1971.
|Sunday, May 31||Edmonton Oilers||3 – 1||Philadelphia Flyers||Northland Coliseum|
Two unusual occurrences marked the opening of the game: The Flyers were awarded a two-man advantage one minute into the contest, and scored the first goal of the game for the first time in the Finals. Craven banked a shot off Fuhr's skate only 1:41 into the game for a 1–0 Philadelphia lead. The Flyers failed to score on the back half of the 5-on-3, and the Oilers came back six minutes later when Messier finished off a 3-on-1 with a backhander to tie the game. Kurri delivered a huge blow to Flyers victory hopes when he beat Hextall with quick wrist shot off a Gretzky pass at 14:59 into the second period which gave the Oilers a one-goal cushion. Edmonton poured it on late, outshooting the Flyers 13–6 in the middle 20 minutes and 12–2 in the third, finally getting an insurance goal on Anderson's 30-footer up the middle with 2:24 to play.
Philadelphia's Hextall, who had 40 saves in game seven, was selected as the playoffs MVP despite Edmonton's victory.
Edmonton Oilers 1987 Stanley Cup champions
(played wing during the playoffs)
- 99 Wayne Gretzky (Captain)
- † Wayne Van Dorp played 3 regular season games, and 3 games in the Conference Finals. He was awarded a Stanely Cup Ring. Van Dorp did not qualify so, his name was not put on the Stanley Cup.
- Peter Pocklington (Owner)
- Glen Sather (President/General Manager/Head Coach)
- Bruce MacGregor (Ass't General Manager)
- John Muckler (Co-Coach), Ted Green (Ass't Coach)
- Ron Low (Ass't Coach), Barry Fraser (Director of Player Personnel/Chief Scout)
- Garnet "Ace" Bailey, Ed Chadwick, Lorne Davis, Matti Valsanen (Scouts)
- Peter Millar (Athletic Therapist), Juergen Merz (Message Therapist), Dr. Gordon Cameron (Team Physician)
- Barrie Stafford (Trainer), Lyle Kulchisky (Ass't Trainer)
References & notes
- NHL (2000). Total Stanley Cup. Dan Diamond & Associates.
- Podnieks, Andrew; Hockey Hall of Fame (2004). Lord Stanley's Cup. Triumph Books, 12, 50. ISBN 1–55168–261–3.
Stanley Cup Champions
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