In a series jam-packed with dramatic play on the ice and political tension felt off it, it was only appropriate that the finale to the 1987 Canada Cup end, for the third consecutive game, with a nail-biting 6-5 win.
And for the second time in three nights, on the the winning goal, it was Gretzky to Lemieux, to cap what many argue is the best series in international hockey history, winning Canada the Cup on home ice and retaining the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
As if the Game 2 overtime thriller never even stopped, Game 3 got off to a wild start less than a minute into regulation, with a broken Gretzky play behind the net resulting in Vladimir Krutov picking up the loose puck and finding Sergei Makarov alone in front of Grant Fuhr, banging in the opening tally just 26 seconds in. Alexei Gusarov doubled the lead on a point blast past a way-out-of-the-net Fuhr six and a half minutes later, and Vyacheslav Fetisov struck just 56 seconds after that on a nifty deke in alone on Fuhr, suddenly seeing Canada down 3-0 eight minutes into the period.
Rick Tocchet managed to roar some life into the Copps Coliseum with a gritty rebound past Soviet netminder Sergei Mylnikov to cut the deficit, and Brian Propp struck with 4:37 remaining in the first on a redirect of a Brent Sutter wraparound attempt. However, Andrei Khomutov would capitalize on a Ray Bourque turnover deep in the Canadian zone, coughing the puck up to Makarov, who sprung Khomutov on an easy breakaway, beating Fuhr on the backhand to take a 4-2 Soviet lead with just 28 seconds left in the first, despite being outshot 19-9 on the period.
The frantic pace continued in the second, with Larry Murphy again closing the gap midway through the frame, being fed a pass by Gretzky from behind the net, blasting a one-timer past Mylnikov five-hole to put things at 4-3. Sutter would tie the game for the first time 96 seconds later in a very similar looking manner, this time receiving being fed by Dale Hawerchuk from behind Mylnikov, one-timing the pass through substantial traffic to fool Mylnikov and tie the game. And with the crowd roaring back to life, Hawerchuk put things over the top soon after with a tremendous individual effort, potting home his own rebound on the second attempt after an end-to-end attempt, giving Canada a 5-4 advantage after forty minutes.
As expected in the third, both sides began to play a more defensive contest, with neither side giving up a single penalty, remarkable for a game which up to this point had nine of them. The defensive stalemate was finally broken midway through the third by Alexander Semak, who took a nifty drop pass from behind the goal line while parked beside the net, pounding a shot past a distracted Fuhr to even the score once again at 5-5. For the third straight game in five nights, it was nearly certain this game would end with a 6-5 score, and likely again in overtime. Except tonight, the Gretzky-Lemieux combo decided to end things a bit more prematurely.
The goal itself came and went in a flash. Lemieux picks up the faceoff win from Hawerchuk, immediately deflecting off the boards, past a pinching Igor Kravchuk, to take an odd-man rush. Lemieux passes up to Gretzky, who with Murphy has now set up a 2-on-1 with Lemieux as the trailer. Gretzky, over the blueline, drops the pass back to Lemieux, taking with him the defender sliding to block the cross pass to Murphy. And with a clear lane, just him and Mylnikov, Le Magnifique, as if there would be any doubt, roofs it top corner, glove side. Mylnikov stumbles over, Mario jumps into the arms of a waiting and jubilant Gretzky, and the Coliseum erupts. Canada managed to hold off the Soviets for another 86 seconds, avoiding further overtime drama to take the regulation victory and win the series.
With the win, Canada retained the International Hockey Lineal Championship, their 29th title, which they won back from the Soviet Union in Game 2 two days earlier, a similar 6-5 victory won on a double overtime goal from Gretzky to Lemieux. The meeting was the 65th IHLC tilt between Canada and the Soviets in their historic rivalry, which improved Canada’s record to 39-17-10, dating back to their first matchup at the 1954 World Championships.
The victory sealed IHLC’s tenure at the 1987 Canada Cup, being held by Sweden and the U.S. for one game each, Canada for four, the Soviets for a single game (their Game 1 victory), before landing with Canada for the final two games of the tournament. The win marked Canada’s third Cup title (after wins in 1976 and 1984), and marks (as of this writing) the last Canada/World Cup finals meeting between these legendary hockey powers – for more, check out the IHLC @ Olympics & Invitationals page.
00:26 – GOAL – Makarov (Krutov)
04:59 – PEN – Bykov, interference
07:04 – GOAL – Gusarov
08:00 – GOAL – Fetisov (Makarov)
09:10 – PEN – Kravchuk, cross checking
09:50 – GOAL – Tocchet (Murphy, Goulet)
10:16 – PEN – Sutter, tripping
15:23 – GOAL – Propp (Sutter, Tocchet)
17:11 – PEN – Makarov, high sticking
19:32 – GOAL – Khomutov
28:24 – PEN – Bykov, tripping
29:30 – PP GOAL – Murphy (Gretzky, M. Lemieux)
31:06 – GOAL – Sutter (Crossman, Hawerchuk)
31:34 – PEN – M. Lemieux, slashing
32:37 – PEN – Larionov, interference
35:32 – GOAL – Hawerchuk (Propp, Murphy)
36:05 – PEN – Bourque, high sticking
38:51 – PEN – Bourque, hooking
52:51 – GOAL – Semak (Lomakin)
58:34 – GOAL – M. Lemieux (Gretzky)
W: Fuhr (18-23)
L: Mylnikov (40-46)
SHOTS ON GOAL
19+12+15 = 46
9+8+6 = 23
Goaltenders: Grant Fuhr, Ron Hextall, Kelly Hrudey. Defence: Ray Bourque (A), Paul Coffey, Doug Crossman, Craig Hartsburg, Larry Murphy, James Patrick, Normand Rochefort. Forwards: Glenn Anderson, Kevin Dineen, Mike Gartner, Doug Gilmour, Michel Goulet, Wayne Gretzky (C), Dale Hawerchuk, Claude Lemieux, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier (A), Brian Propp, Brent Sutter, Rick Tocchet.
Goaltenders: Yevgeni Belosheikin, Sergei Mylnikov, Vitālijs Samoilovs. Defence: Anatoli Fedotov, Vyacheslav Fetisov (C), Alexei Gusarov, Alexei Kasatonov, Igor Kravchuk, Vasili Pervukhin, Igor Stelnov. Forwards: Vyacheslav Bykov, Valeri Kamenski, Yuri Khmylyov, Andrei Khomutov, Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, Andrei Lomakin, Sergei Makarov, Sergei Nemchinov, Sergei Pryakhin, Alexander Semak, Anatoli Semyonov, Sergei Svetlov.