After the first two games, the Bruins' party line sounded like this: "Just wait till we get 'em in our building. It's important for us to be going home. The crowd will be a big help." The speaker was forlorn defenseman Glen Wesley, whose third-period giveaway in Game 2 had allowed Oiler left wing Esa Tikkanen to make the blind backhand pass that set up No. 99's game-winner.
Yes, the Bruins believed their offensive blahs could be cured by a dose of pinball hockey, as Messier refers to the game as it is played in Boston Garden. The hopeful thinking was that the rink's miniature dimensions—191 feet by 83 feet as compared with a standard NHL size of 200 by 85—would prevent the Oilers from using their superior speed. Also, suggested Wesley wishfully, "It's going to be tougher for their defense to stand our forwards up at the blue line." The Garden would make the difference.
Things started out better when Boston left wing Randy Burridge lofted the first goal of Game 3 over Fuhr's right shoulder. Despite Oiler Kevin McClelland's goal 14 minutes later, Boston seemed in command, and the Beantown crowd was deafening. But the Bruins lost their starch, and the game, on a hammerhead penalty midway through the second period by forward Jay Miller. The penalty occurred after Marty McSorley, the Oilers' top tough guy, collided with Bruins defenseman Michael Thelven, coldcocking him in the process. Thelven left the ice on a stretcher and went straight to the hospital with a mild concussion. No penalty was called on McSorley, and the Bruins were enraged, none more so than Miller.
When play resumed, Miller immediately began spoiling for a piece of McSorley but settled instead for McClelland six seconds after the ensuing face-off. Referee Andy van Hellemond—indeed, all 14,451 people in the Garden—knew exactly what Miller was going to do, and van Hellemond raised his arm for a penalty before Miller's gloves were on the ice. Seventy-nine seconds into the power play, Tikkanen scored the first goal in what would become a hat trick, and the Garden crowd was deflated.
"I didn't see the point in conceding the physical aspect of the game," said O'Reilly, defending his decision to leave the agitated Miller on the ice. The traits that give the Bruins their personality and make them effective—their size and surliness—had undone them.
In the end, though, they were really undone by the confounding, adaptable Oilers, a bunch with a few effective traits of its own.