For a time the Bruins-Islanders skirmish was a replay of the Boston-Buffalo match. The Bruins took a quick 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Don Marcotte, but the Islanders capitalized on a string of five straight penalties against the Bruins to go ahead 3-2 early in the second period. Just 13 seconds after Clark Gillies' goal had put the Islanders in front, Marcotte scored his third goal for a 3-3 tie. Jean Ratelle scored the 400th goal of his NHL career later in the period to give the Bruins a 4-3 lead, and Milbury beat a shaky Chico Resch to give Boston a 5-3 victory. Boston's checkers dominated the third period again, holding New York to only five shots on Cheevers, and just one during the last 10 minutes.
That night in Toronto, Buffalo tied the Maple Leafs 1-1 on Jerry Korab's goal late in the third period and pulled to within two points of the Bruins. "So we haven't won anything yet," said Boston Wing Wayne Cashman as the Bruins prepared to play Toronto Sunday night. Indeed, if Buffalo beat St. Louis, and Boston failed to get at least a tie against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins and Sabres would tie for first place with 104 points. Under the complicated procedure for breaking ties, the Sabres then would be awarded first place—and the Round 1 bye—on the basis of their better record in Adams Division games.
On madcap Sunday the precincts began to phone in their final tabulations shortly after 4:30 p.m. E.S.T. Atlanta was first on the line; the Flames blew a 3-1 lead and got only a 3-3 tie with Philadelphia, thus losing any chance for home-ice advantage in Round 1. "We're leaving for Los Angeles Monday at 10 a.m. or for Pittsburgh at 3 p.m.," said a distressed Fletcher. The next result came from the West Coast at 7:45 p.m. as Minnesota lost to Vancouver 6-3, leaving the North Stars just one point ahead of Chicago for the seventh seed.
Shortly after 9:30 p.m., Buffalo phoned in with a 7-3 victory over St. Louis and, pending the outcome of the Toronto-Boston game, the Sabres were in first place in the Adams race. At 10:02 p.m. Pittsburgh checked in with a 4-2 win over Detroit, clinching home ice against someone—anyone—on Tuesday night.
The first returns from Boston came at 10:12 p.m.: Bruins 5, Maple Leafs 1, with 14 minutes to play. Then came an update: Bruins 5, Maple Leafs 4, with five minutes to play. All Buffalo groaned at the next score: Bruins 6, Maple Leafs 4, on an empty-net goal. Then the final: Bruins 7, Maple Leafs 4, on another empty-net goal. So Boston had defeated the Sabres for the Adams title, and had edged the Islanders for the third-best record in the league.
At 10:51 p.m. there was more bad news for Buffalo: the Islanders beat the Rangers 5-2 and thus finished the schedule with two more points than the Sabres.
Now only two more precincts were still out. At 11:13 p.m. a South Side alderman reported that Chicago had lost to Cleveland 4-2. The Black Hawks did not demand a recount by Led Zeppelin, so Minnesota held on to the seventh seed for the preliminaries while Chicago retained the eighth, and last, spot. Two playoff series were set: Chicago against the Islanders, Minnesota against Buffalo.
As Sunday passed into history in the East, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Toronto awaited the results of Los Angeles' game at Colorado. At 12:33 a.m. E.S.T. Monday, the call came: in the 720th—and final—game of the season, Los Angeles scored twice in the last two minutes to beat Colorado 6-4. So the remaining matchups were set: Atlanta opening at L.A., and Toronto at Pittsburgh.
And at 9 a.m. the Bruins' Nate Greenberg called the printer in Boston and told him to shred the programs.