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Return Flight: The Spectrum’s loudest moment

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J.J. Daigneault’s only playoff goal as a Philadelphia Flyer was pretty important.

Heritage Classic Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Throughout the season, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane whenever the Flyers open their season series against an opponent. We’ll be remembering a game, goal, or highlight Philly created while playing against that particular team. It won’t always be the most notable memory the Orange and Black have against that team, but it’ll be something that Flyers’ fans will want to remember.

The Spectrum was the home of the Philadelphia Flyers from their inaugural season through the 1995-96 season. It was also home of the 76ers over the same time, and was also home of the Philadelphia Phantoms, Philadelphia Soul, Philadelphia Wings, and the Philadelphia KiXX for several seasons over the arena’s 42-year run. For an arena that saw its fair amount of sporting events, including a win that clinched the Stanley Cup in 1974, it’s a pretty bold assessment for one particular moment to be dubbed the loudest moment in the arena’s history. With that being said, one goal during the 1987 NHL postseason has been given that label.

For the entirety of their existence, the Flyers have reached the Stanley Cup Final eight times. In each of their six losses in the Final, defeat for the Orange and Black came at the hands of a dynasty. After winning back-to-back Cups over the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers lost in their third straight Stanley Cup appearance in 1976 to the Montreal Canadiens, who ended up winning four straight titles. After the Canadiens’ dynasty came the New York Islanders’ run, who won their first of four straight Cups against Philly with a little help from the refs. The Flyers were also the first victims of the Detroit Red Wings’ run of four Cups in 11 season from 1997 to 2008, as well as the Chicago Blackhawks’ stretch of three titles in six seasons from 2010 to 2015. To top off their stretch of facing dynasties in the Final was the club’s meetings against the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980’s.

After they won Game 1 of the 1985 Stanley Cup Final 4-1 thanks to a 25-save performance from Pelle Lindbergh, the Flyers dropped Games 2 through 5 by a combined score of 20-11 to lose in five games due to 11-point series from Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. Following an emotional 1985-86 season that saw the tragic passing of Lindbergh, the Orange and Back rebounded in the 1986-87 season.

A 58-goal season from Tim Kerr, good enough for second in the league behind Gretzky’s 62, to go along with 33 goals from Peter Zezel and 31 goals from Brian Propp helped the 1986-87 Flyers to finish fourth in the 21-team NHL with 310 goals. Rookie Ron Hextall, who won the Flyers’ most recent Vezina Trophy with a .902 save percentage over 66 games, Glenn ‘Chico’ Resch (.903 in 17 games), and Bob Froese (.909 save percentage in three games) helped Philadelphia finish first in the NHL with a team save percentage of .902. On defense, Philadelphia had five d-men play in 69 (nice) games or more during the 1986-87 regular season: Mark Howe, Doug Crossman, Brad Marsh, Brad McCrimmon, and J.J. Daigneault. With the second-fewest losses during the regular season behind only Edmonton’s 24, the Flyers finished 46-26-8 to record 100 points, which was good enough to finish first in both the Patrick Division and the Prince of Wales Conference.

In the opening round of the 1987 postseason, Philly eliminated the New York Rangers in six games. After he had just one shutout during the 1986-87 regular season, Hextall had shutouts in the Flyers’ 3-0 win in Game 3 and 5-0 win in Game 6. The Orange and Black responded to a 3-0 loss in Game 1 with an 8-3 victory in Game 2 thanks to two goals from Rick Tocchet and three assists from Lindsay Carson. Tocchet recorded another two-goal game in the Flyers’ Game 5 3-1 win.

One day after the conclusion of the Easter Epic, the Flyers hosted the New York Islanders for Game 1 of the 1987 Patrick Division Finals, which the home team won 4-2 behind a Kerr hat trick. Despite Crossman opening the scoring with 14:07 left in regulation, the Isles took Game 2 by a score of 2-1 thanks to Mikko Makela’s tally with three seconds left to even the series. Philadelphia gained a 3-1 series lead after a 4-1 win in Game 3 thanks to Howe’s three-point night and a 6-4 win in Game 4 due to Kerr’s two goals and Crossman’s three assists. Carson put the Flyers up 1-0 5:56 into the second period of Game 5, but Richard Kromm and Randy Wood scored the other two goals of the tilt for an Islanders’ 2-1 win. Bryan Trottier’s two-goal contest helped New York win Game 6 (which turned out to be Tim Kerr’s final playoff game that postseason, due to a serious shoulder injury) 4-2 and force a Game 7, which the Flyers took 5-1 thanks to Ilkka Sinisalo’s first career two-goal playoff performance.

Two days later, Sinisalo registered his second and final two-goal postseason game, as he provided the overtime tally in a 4-3 win for the Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs evened the series with a 5-2 decision in Game 2, but thanks to Pelle Eklund scoring his series-high five goals with a two-goal contest in a 4-3 Game 3 win and a hat trick in a 6-3 Game 4 win, the Orange and Back came home for Game 5 with a 3-1 series advantage. The Canadiens held a 3-1 lead in Game 6 when Bobby Smith potted his ninth of the postseason with exactly 13 minutes left in the second period, but Sinisalo made it 3-2 49 seconds later and Scott Mellanby tied it 1:51 after Sinisalo’s tally. Tocchet put home his second goal of the series and eighth of the 1987 playoffs with 12:49 left in regulation to put the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Flyers faced off against the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final for a second time in three years. Since their 1985 Cup win, the Oilers lost a total of six games over during the 1986 postseason and first three rounds of the 1987 playoffs. Four of those six losses came in the only series they lost from 1984 to 1987, which was their seven-game Smythe Division Final against the Calgary Flames that came to a close with Steve Smith’s infamous own goal. The Oilers’ path to the 1987 Final consisted of a 4-1 series win over the Los Angeles Kings, a sweep of the old Winnipeg Jets, and a 4-1 series win over the Detroit Red Wings.

On May 17, 1987, the Flyers traveled to the Northlands Coliseum to take on the Oilers for Game 1. Gretzky gave the Oilers a lead late in the first on a rebound in front, but the Flyers made it a 1-1 game before the third period as Propp blasted a drop pass from Tocchet past Grant Fuhr’s blocker after Dave Brown and Kelly Buchberger got into it. Despite a tally from Tocchet in the third period, the Oilers pulled away for a 4-2 win thanks to markers from Coffey, Jari Kurri, and Glenn Anderson.

Three days later, Gretzky opened the scoring for a second straight game 45 seconds into the middle frame. Thanks to tallies from Derrick Smith and Propp just 3:03 apart later in the period, the Orange and Black found themselves ahead 2-1 after 40 minutes. Although Hextall did all he could to give the Flyers a chance, an incredible individual effort from Anderson tied the game with 8:20 left in regulation. In the overtime frame, Propp hit a post early, but Edmonton eventually grabbed the 2-0 series lead, as Kurri one-timed a Coffey feed short side on Hextall 6:50 into the fourth period.

The series shifted to The Spectrum two days later, where it didn’t look great for the Flyers early. After Mark Messier potted a shorthanded goal early and Coffey scored on a broken play with nine seconds left in the first period, Anderson’s whiff on a shot fooled Hextall to give the Oilers’ a commanding 3-0 lead just 1:49 into the second period. Down 2-0 in the series and 3-0 in the game, the series looked as though it was drifting towards an insurmountable 3-0 lead for Edmonton, but the home team fought back. Murray Craven and Zezel scored to make it a 3-2 game before the end of the second period, while Mellanby and McCrimmon beat Fuhr 17 seconds apart to give the Flyers an unexpected lead with 15:06 left in regulation. Propp added on an empty-net goal to finalize the 5-3 victory for Philly in what is one of the most memorable comebacks in franchise history.

Despite their amazing comeback the previous game, the Flyers failed to even the series in Game 4, as the Oilers grabbed a 3-1 series lead thanks to a 4-1 outcome. Kurri put home his 13th of the season in the game’s first six minutes and Kevin Lowe made it 2-0 later in the stanza. McCrimmon cut the lead to one with a power-play goal while Gretzky sat in the box for hooking, but Randy Gregg restored the two-goal lead a little over four minutes later. Mike Krushelnyski made it a three-goal lead in the third period, as the series shifted back to Edmonton with the Flyers on the brink of elimination. It was a frustrating loss for the Flyers, as illustrated by Hextall’s infamous slash on Kent Nilsson, which resulted in an eight-game suspension to start the 1987-88 season.

Considering how much pundits counted the Flyers out in this matchup due to the Oilers’ overall star power and how injured Philly was when the series began, it’s safe to say the Orange and Black may have had something to prove before the close of this particular series. The first statement came in Game 5. Down 2-0 just 6:35 in due to goals from Kurri and Marty McSorley, the Flyers pushed back with a Tocchet goal with 50 seconds left in the first period. McSorley made it a 3-1 game 1:32 into the second period, but Crossman stepped into a Propp feed on the rush to beat Fuhr before Eklund tied the game at three with 7:20 left in the middle frame on one of his many rebound attempts on the play. Propp set up Tocchet for a second time in the win, as he found the forward streaking to the net after he forced a takeaway at the side of the net to give Philly a 4-3 advantage with 14:34 left. The visitors held on for the one-goal victory to force the 3-2 series back to Philly.

After a gutsy win on the road, the Flyers needed another gritty performance in Game 6 to force a Game 7. Yet again, the Flyers found themselves in a hole early, as both Lowe and Kevin McClelland scored their second goals of the 1987 postseason for a 2-0 Edmonton lead with 4:44 left in the first period. With his team once again on the verge of being eliminated from the Final, Hextall provided quality and quantity saves to allow Carson to make it a one-goal game after he waved down Brown for a wide-open chance in front halfway through the second period. This is where the score stood after 40 minutes, even though the Flyers were outshot 24-13.

As the time ticked down in what was possibly the final period of a long, hard-fought season, Flyers’ fans managed to take it up a notch more than the usual Philly support. Still down by a goal with just under seven minutes left, Anderson was handed a high-sticking minor. With the man advantage, Eklund found Propp cutting into the slot, which led to the Flyers’ forward blasting one past Fuhr’s glove to make it 3-3 with 6:56 left in regulation and sent The Spectrum crowd into a frenzy.

Shortly after Propp’s game-tying goal, Zezel led an odd-man rush that was broken up by Kurri. The Oiler that had the smallest cup of coffee possible with the Orange and Black tried to bank the puck off the boards and out of Edmonton’s zone, but the puck slowed down near the left point after it hit the wall. Daigneault, who was taking part in the eighth of his nine postseason games in 1987, teed off on the loose puck and put it past a startled Fuhr for the Flyers’ first lead of the contest with 5:32 left. Daigneault’s only playoff goal as a Flyer in his second-to-last postseason game for Philly blew the roof off The Spectrum in a moment that was considered to be the loudest moment in the arena’s history.

There is some belief that Mellanby, who was providing the screen in front, may have touched the puck, but it’s been credited to Daigneault for over 31 years. The hosts held on for the win, but it didn’t come without a last-second scare. In the game’s final seconds, Hextall moved out of his crease and attempted to clear the puck up the middle of the ice, but instead found Messier. The future captain of the New York Rangers dropped the puck to the ice and nearly tied the game, but was denied due to Hextall’s ability to scramble back to the crease just in time.

Philadelphia jumped out to a lead just 1:41 into Game 7 thanks to Craven, but goals from Messier in the first period, Kurri in the second, and Anderson in the third allowed the Oilers to come away with their third title in four seasons. Hextall, once again, gave his team a chance, as he stopped 40 shots in a game where Philly lost the shot battle 43-20. The rookie goalie ended up winning the Conn Smythe as the fourth player (and second Flyer along with Reggie Leach in 1976) to win the award as a member of the Final’s losing team.

This was the closest the 80’s iteration of the Flyers came to winning it all, as they lost in overtime of Game 7 of the opening round of the 1988 playoffs to the Washington Capitals and to the Montreal Canadiens in the 1989 Eastern Conference Final, which is when the infamous Chris Chelios hit and Hextall retaliation took place. After their run in 1989, the Flyers went into a rebuild in the early 1990’s.

*Stats via Hockey Reference and NHL.com

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