Maple Leafs move on
Toronto bounces Philly on controversial last-minute goal
Posted: Friday May 21, 1999 01:24 AM
When the horn sounded, the Flyers were just getting warmed up. Everyone from team chairman Ed Snider to Eric Lindros -- who didn't even play -- accused referee Terry Gregson of deciding the series with a late penalty call against John LeClair.
Though Sergei Berezin's goal with 59 seconds left sent the Flyers home in the first round for the second straight year, the taste was much more bitter this time.
"When the official decides a game, it's a disgrace," Snider screamed outside the Flyers locker room. "Everybody in the stands knows what that guy did."
The Maple Leafs -- and Gregson -- just thought it was a dumb play by LeClair, one of the least penalized players in the league.
"We had five penalties in a row, so they can't complain about this," said Berezin, who blasted a loose puck past John Vanbiesbrouck for the winning goal with LeClair in the penalty box. Bryan Berard, who made a kick save earlier with Joseph wandering from the net, fanned on his shot and then had the puck bounce off defenseman Adam Burt.
It bounced right to Berezin, who shot it past a sprawling Vanbiesbrouck for his second goal of the series.
"It happened so fast," Vanbiesbrouck said. "He didn't wait. He just put it right in."
The Maple Leafs, masters of the close game and late goal, became the first team in NHL history to win a seven-game series without scoring three or more goals in any game.
"We seemed to be more alert and sharper in one-goal games," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "The word lucky is probably appropriate as well."
Toronto, despite trailing for most of the series, advanced to the second round for the first time since 1994. The Flyers went 0-for-6 on the power play and didn't score a goal in the final 130 minutes of the series. They haven't won an elimination game since 1989.
"We get to the next round, we're all back together, we're all healthy and we're all ready to go," said Lindros, who was out with a collapsed lung but was pressing doctors to let him play in the second round if the Flyers made it. "It's not going to work out that way."
LeClair was called for elbowing Mike Johnson with 2:54 left, sending him to the penalty box for the most crucial moments of the season. The Flyers contended that Todd Warriner blasted Jody Hull and Kris King tripped Rod Brind'Amour before the penalty was called on LeClair.
"I understand I'm going to get fined, and I don't care how much I get fined," said Snider, leading the Flyers' criticism of the two-referee system used in the playoffs. "The truth is there. Everybody in the stands knows it. Everybody in the city knows it.
"It's a disgrace to the game. If Gregson can sleep tonight, God bless him."
LeClair, who lost his helmet at the Maple Leafs' end, chased Johnson behind the Flyers' net. Replays showed that he did lift his elbow and make contact with Johnson's head.
"I was the guy in the box," LeClair said. "I was the guy who gave them the advantage. And I feel pretty bad about it right now."
When Berezin scored the winning goal, he could barely skate because his right skate was badly bent.
"I shouldn't have played the shift," Berezin said. "My skate was real bad. I stepped on a stick, but I just kept playing because there were two minutes left in the game."
The Flyers haven't won an elimination game since beating Montreal in Game 5 of the 1989 Wales Conference finals on Dave Poulin's overtime goal. They lost that series, missed the playoffs for five seasons and are 0-5 in elimination games since then.
Joseph seemed beatable and had a terrible time handling the puck, and it nearly doomed the Maple Leafs several times.
The most dangerous gaffe came less than two minutes into the second, when Joseph fell down behind the net and lost the puck to Rod Brind'Amour with the Maple Leafs on a power play.
Brind'Amour spun around and passed to Mikael Andersson as Cujo scrambled in vain to get back in the net. Berard kicked Andersson's weak shot aside with his left skate, preserving the scoreless tie.
"Bryan made a kick save and a beauty," Joseph said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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