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The Islanders Go Four It All
E.M. Swift
May 23, 1983
Led by intimidating—and impenetrable—Billy Smith, New York took a 3-0 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers to pull within a win of a fourth straight Stanley Cup
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May 23, 1983

The Islanders Go Four It All

Led by intimidating—and impenetrable—Billy Smith, New York took a 3-0 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers to pull within a win of a fourth straight Stanley Cup

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In Game 3, on Long Island, the Oilers were looking to break free from New York's checking yoke. Gretzky, who already had set a record for most points in a playoff year (36), had only two assists so far in this series. Edmonton, which had the NHL's best road record during the regular season, began strongly, but Smith made stunning saves on Gretzky, Charlie Huddy and Dave Hunter. As the first period was drawing to a close. Bossy saved a goal by knocking a bouncing puck out of the Islander crease. Just moments after that, he broke down on a two-on-one. Moog managed to stop Bossy's shot, but Anders Kallur put in the rebound to give New York a 1-0 lead.

The Oilers responded with a power-play goal at 1:05 of the next period and, for the rest of the period, were in control, outshooting the Islanders 15-5. Smith held fast, though, and the score was 1-1 at intermission. "Some of the forwards mentioned that we weren't forcing the Oilers at their blue line," said Morrow later, explaining the Islanders' change in strategy in the third period. Suddenly, after backing off for the bulk of three games, the New York defensemen began pinching into the Edmonton zone. The strategy led to the game winner, put in by Bourne at 5:11 off a rebound of a shot by Defenseman Stefan Persson. A minute later Morrow scored, and the Islanders' four-goal third-period barrage was completed by Duane and Brent Sutter.

Said a disconsolate Gretzky, who had been held to one assist, "We've learned a lot from this team and the main thing is composure. We've got them on the ropes in the second period, and they come out in the third and score four goals. What are you going to do? We've played good hockey and had plenty of chances—hit two posts. We're just not scoring." Added Sather, "Seems like we're a fraction of an inch off. But those are the sort of fractions that decide championships."

One of the appealing aspects of this tainted final is the feeling it leaves of a changing of the guard. The Islanders clearly are nearing the end of their reign. In the first three games they played virtually flawless hockey and still weren't easy winners. The Oilers aren't yet ready to take their place, but Edmonton's talent is only too apparent. Even the players are aware of it. Said Bourne, who was the Islanders' top postseason scorer through Game 3, with 28 points in 19 games, "I was talking to my wife, and I told her that the Oilers were going to win a Stanley Cup very soon. Maybe next year or maybe the year after that. I just hope it's not against us when they do it."

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