The Philadelphia Flyers consider Brian Propp their best pressure player. When the game is a big one, they have learned to rely on the 27-year-old left wing.
Propp was the key figure Sunday night at Philadelphia as the Flyers spotted the Washington Capitals a 2-0 lead, then stormed back to whip the Capitals, 5-3, and win the Patrick Division title in the final game of the regular season.
Propp had a hat trick, including the tying and go-ahead goals in the first two minutes of the second period, to lead the Flyers to their third title in the last four years in the division generally considered the toughest in the NHL.
The Flyers, who will play the New York Rangers in the best-of-five opening playoff series starting Wednesday night at Philadelphia, needed a win or a tie to beat the Capitals.
It did not look good for the Flyers when Jorgen Pettersson and Craig Laughlin scored goals just 52 seconds apart in the middle of the first period off Bob Froese, the winner of the Vezina Trophy, emblematic of goaltender supremacy.
A few minutes later, it all turned against the Capitals, already playing without injured Mike Gartner. Bobby Carpenter, their brilliant center, was cut down with a knee injury.
The Flyers began to gather momentum and, late in the opening period, Tim Kerr scored his 57th goal and his record 34th of the season on a power play.
At the start of the second period, Propp and his linemate, the clever Dave Poulin teamed up for two goals in 67 seconds. Propp scored them both, the second when his team was shorthanded. Later in the period Propp set up Kerr for another goal. Then, after the Capitals, who pulled goalie Pete Peeters with 3:13 remaining, cut the lead to 4-3, Propp completed his hat trick with a shot into an empty net.
Froese, who did not become the Flyers' No. 1 goaltender until after Pelle Lindbergh was killed in an auto accident early in the season. He proved more than adequate as No. 1, posting a 2.56 goals-against average.
The Flyers gave up only 241 goals this season, best in the league. The Capitals, who won 50 games for the first time in their 12-year history, gave up 272 to finish a distant second.
Chicago 3, St. Louis 1--Defenseman Behn Wilson, a bit of a disappointment most of the season, made amends in a big way at Chicago as the Blackhawks clinched their second Norris Division title in four years.
Wilson scored power-play goals in the first and second periods and goaltender Murray Bannerman made 26 saves to make the lead hold up.
When the Blackhawks lost at St. Louis Saturday night, it gave Minnesota the lead in the Norris for a brief time. The victory gave the Blackhawks a 39-33-8 record for 86 points. In one of the tightest division races ever in the NHL, Minnesota finished 38-33-9 for 85 points, while the Blues were 37-34-9 for 83 points.
As a result, the Blackhawks will host Toronto in the opener of a best-of-five first round series starting Wednesday, while the Blues will be at Minnesota.
Bannerman lost his shutout when Brian Sutter scored with 7:35 left in the game. Earlier ind the third period, Denis Savard scored his 47th of the season to give Chicago a 3-0 lead.
Hartford 4, Boston 3--The Whalers, who go into the playoffs as the hottest team, ruined the hopes of the Bruins of finishing second in the Adams Division in this game at Boston. By losing to the Whalers, who lost only one of their last 11 games, the Bruins lost the home ice edge for the first round of the playoffs. They open at Montreal.
Pittsburgh 5, New York Rangers 4--Mario Lemieux scored his 48th goal 25 seconds into overtime at New York, but the victory came too late to help the Penguins. The Penguins finished two points behind the Rangers and failed to make the playoffs.
Edmonton 3, Vancouver 2--Jari Kurri's league-leading 68th goal, with 3:34 remaining at Vancouver, made certain that the Canucks would be the first obstacle in the path of the Oilers' drive to a third consecutive Stanley Cup.
A tie or victory in the finale for the Canucks would have put them in third place in the Smythe Division and Winnipeg would have faced Edmonton in the opening round.
Wayne Gretzky had an assist to finish the season with records for assists (163) and points (215).