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On This Date in Sports May 31, 1987: Cup Covered in Oil

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com 

The Edmonton Oilers reclaim the Stanley Cup, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games. The Oilers win the decisive seventh game at Northlands Coliseum 3-1. It is the Oilers' third championship in four years. Ron Hextall, the goalie for the Flyers, wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. Hextall made 37 saves in Game 7 as he nearly snatched the Stanley Cup away from the Oilers and Wayne Gretzky. 

In 1985, the Edmonton Oilers won their second straight Stanley Cup beating the Philadelphia Flyers in five games. The Flyers came out strong the following season. They had a ten-game winning streak as they readied for a rematch with the Oilers in November when tragedy struck as goalie Pelle Lindbergh was killed after crashing his car into a wall near the Flyers' practice facility. The Flyers beat the Oilers 5-3 in an emotional night at the Spectrum. The Flyers finished the 1986 season in first place but were upset by the New York Rangers in the playoffs. 

With the emergence of Ron Hextall, the Flyers again were the top team in the Eastern Conference in 1987. They posted a record of 46-26-8 under coach Mike Keenan, as Hextall, a rookie, won the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the league. The Flyers defeated the Rangers in six games before needing seven games to beat the New York Islanders to reach the Wales Conference Finals. The Flyers dethroned the defending champion Montreal Canadiens in six games in the Conference Finals. 

The Edmonton Oilers looked like a lock to win the Stanley Cup after claiming the first President's Trophy in 1986. However, in the Smythe Division Finals, they were stunned by the Calgary Flames in seven games, losing on an own-goal by Steve Smith. The Oilers again had the best record in the NHL in 1987 at 50-24-6 under coach Glenn Sather. They needed five games to beat the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. They would sweep the Winnipeg Jets to reach the Campbell Conference Finals. In the Conference Finals, the Oilers dropped Game 1 but won the next four against the Detroit Red Wings to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the fourth time in five years. 

In the opener of the Stanley Cup Finals, the score was tied 1-1 at the end of two periods. The Oilers would come out flying in the third period as Glenn Anderson scored at 48 seconds. Edmonton added goals from Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri to take a 4-1 lead, as Rick Tocchet's goal for the Flyers was too little too late, with the Oilers winning 4-2. In Game 2, the Oilers needed overtime to take a 2-0 series lead, as Glenn Anderson tied the game 2-2 in the third period, while Jari Kurri scored the game-winner at 6:50 of sudden death. 

At the Spectrum in Game 3, the Oilers looked ready to take a stranglehold in the series as they held a 3-0 lead early in the second period. However, the Flyers got a pair of power-play goals from Murray Craven and Peter Zezel to get within one goal. Philadephia would take the lead in the third period on goals by Scott Mellanby and Brad McCrimmon 17 seconds apart. The Flyers added an empty-net goal by Brian Propp to win the game 5-3. The Oilers shook off the Game 3 loss and dominated Game 4, winning 4-1 to take a 3-1 series lead back to Edmonton with a chance to claim the Stanley Cup at home. 

The Oilers appeared ready to close the series out as they held a 3-1 lead in the second period of Game 5. However, Doug Crossman and Pelle Eklund scored to tie the game in the second period. In the third period, Rick Tocchet had his second goal of the game to give Philadelphia a 4-3 win sending the series back to Philadelphia. The Oilers, as they did all series, held the lead early in Game 2, with goals by Kevin Lowe and Kevin McClelland. However, the Flyers fought back again, tying the game on a power-play goal by Brian Propp at 13:04. The Flyers would take the lead 84 seconds later on a goa by Jean-Jacques Daigneault, winning 3-2 to force a seventh game in Edmonton. 


In Game 7, at the Northlands Coliseum, the upstart Flyers looking to complete a 3-1 series comeback took an early lead on a power-play goal by Murray Craven. Mark Messier netted the game-tying goal at 7:45 of the first period as the Oilers withstood the Flyers' early punch. Ron Hextall did his best to keep Philadelphia in the game, making 37 saves; however, the Oilers took the lead on a goal by Jari Kurri with 5:01 left in the second period. The Oilers would add a goal by Glenn Anderson in the third period and claimed the Stanley Cup with a 3-1 win, as Grany Fuhr made 19 saves with the Oilers' defense limiting the Flyers to 20 shots.