May 28, 1987
It’s Game 6 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals between the Flyers and the Edmonton Oilers at the Spectrum. The Flyers were down three games to two and needed a win on home ice to force a Game 7 back in Edmonton.
To get there, the Flyers would need contributions from everyone to beat the high-flying Oilers and not see them parade the Cup around on their home ice. One would expect a star of the team to step forward and be the hero – Rick Tocchet, Brian Propp or even smooth-skating defenseman Mark Howe.
On this day, it would be 21-year-old rookie defenseman J.J. Daigneault.
The Flyers did not start the game very well, as they gave up a disputed short-handed goal to Oilers defenseman Kevin Lowe just over five minutes into the game. Although the goal went in off of Lowe’s skate, it was not deemed it was done with a kicking motion.
Ten minutes later, winger Kevin McClelland scored on a feed from Craig MacTavish that would put the Oilers up 2-0, a lead they took to the locker room after 20 minutes as they out-shot the Flyers, 15-5.
In the second, the Flyers would hold off the Oilers until Dave Brown set up Lindsay Carson at 7:12 to cut the Edmonton lead in half. Although the Flyers were out-shot, 9-8, in the period, they managed to keep Edmonton off the board and were down by one heading into the third.
In that third period, the game tightened up. When the Oilers Glenn Anderson was called for a high-sticking minor with under seven minutes to play, the Flyers had a golden opportunity to tie the game. On that power play, Pelle Eklund passed the puck from the near boards perfectly to Propp in the slot. Propp’s shot went high over the glove hand of Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr into the net to tie the game at two.
With the 17,222 fans still abuzz from the Flyers comeback, it was just over a minute later when J.J. Daigneault became the hero.
As Flyer Peter Zezel broke down the wing on a 3-on-2, Scott Mellanby was in the middle of the ice. Once Zezel gained the line, Mellanby headed for the net. Zezel tried a cross ice pass to Propp on the left wing, but was intercepted by the backchecking Jari Kurri of Edmonton. His clearing attempt banked off of the boards and hit the softest spot imaginable, as the carom slowed to a crawl on the third period Spectrum ice towards the blue line.
Daigneault skated towards the puck, decided not to stop it and in all one motion, fired a laser right inside the far post from 60 feet away. With Mellanby in front and Lowe nearby, Fuhr did not have a chance to see the puck until it was seemingly past him.
The crowd erupted. Many who were there will tell you that it was the loudest it had ever been at the Spectrum. The ovation was deafening and the Oilers, now down a goal with 5:32 left, were stunned.
The Flyers were able to hold off the Oilers the rest of the way and win the game, 3-2, and force a Game 7. Although the Oilers won the Cup and defeated the Flyers for the second time in three years in the Final, you can mention the 1987 series to any Flyers fan and one of their first comments will be "J.J Daigneault’s game-winner in Game 6."
Mike Watson is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @Mwats_99