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NHL History: Jari Kurri scores game-winner, Edmonton Oilers win 1987 Stanley Cup

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Esa Tikkanen forces a turnover. Wayne Gretzky gobbles up the loose puck. He passes to Jari Kurri. Kurri scores.

It was a goal that happened many-a-times over the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, but this one gave the club their third Stanley Cup in four years.

Kurri’s 25-foot shot beat Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ron Hextall with five minutes to go in the second was the game-winner.

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The Oilers kept their dynasty rolling coming off a season that saw them post a 50-24-6 record good enough for best in the league. Their 372 goals, too, led all NHL clubs.

The Conn Smythe, however, didn’t go to an Oiler as for the fourth time in league history, the trophy went to a player on the losing team. Rookie Flyers goalie Ron Hextall, who also won the Vezina Trophy, was given the Conn Smythe after fighting tooth and nail to keep the Flyers in the series.

A few Oilers made very good cases for the Smythe. Gretzky scored 34 points in the playoffs, 11 in the finals, as Mark Messier (28 points) Glenn Anderson (27) and Jari Kurri (15 goals) all had great runs.

In his countdown series from a few years back, Robin Brownlee described this Cup victory:

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The 1986-87 Oilers won 50-or-more games for the third time in franchise history. They amassed 100-or-more points for the sixth time and won the Smythe Division for the sixth straight season. Gretzky won his seventh scoring title with 183 points and his eighth Hart Trophy as MVP.

This season wasn’t really about numbers, though. It was about redemption after seeing their bid for that third straight Cup denied with the stunning second-round loss to the hated Flames after a season in which the Oilers tied a franchise record with 119 points. They were everybody’s favorite to make it a three-peat.

Based on how high the Oilers had set the bar in previous seasons, this edition of the team wasn’t as dominant as it had been. The Oilers had their string of seasons in which they’d scored at least 400 goals snapped at five. Gretzky, who had 200-or-more points in four of the previous five seasons, settled for 183. The Oilers won the Smythe Division, finishing 11 points ahead of the runner-up Flames after finishing 30 points ahead of Calgary in 1985-86. Still, there was a resilience to this team, and the Oilers would need it in a rematch of the 1985 Cup final against the Flyers.

It didn’t take long for the Oilers to get back to the finals as a year later Edmonton beat the Boston Bruins to win the 1988 cup.

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