What-If : Game Three : ’80 Islanders Vs. ’94 Rangers


Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

As our simulation match-up (using the engine of WhatIfSports) between the 1980 New York Islanders and 1994 New York Rangers continues, the series shifts back to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for game three of the best of seven series between the two heated rivals.

It was a tense see-saw battle over the opening two games of the series in Manhattan as the Islanders overcame a three goal first period deficit to win game one 4-3 before losing game two by a similar score in double overtime after their vaunted power play failed to convert two separate five on three opportunities.

Would the Isles failure to close out game two come back to haunt them? Would their inability to take advantage of the Rangers lack of discipline give the Blueshirts more momentum in the series? It all played out (sort of) before a capacity crowd of over 16,000 (actually just me, so those must have been advance sales and subsequent no-shows) in Long Island as the two teams hit the ice.


New York Rangers at New York Islanders

Game three (best of seven)

Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, NY (series tied 1-1)

First Period :  Rangers fans watching at home and the couple that braved the Coliseum back in those days must have been experiencing a dangerous sense of deja-vu when Steve Larmer, an experienced veteran, took a roughing call at the 3:19 mark of the opening period in a tussle with Islanders defenseman Stefan Persson. But as was the trend across the second half of game two, the Isles once again would shoot blanks with the man advantage. Clark Gillies had the best opportunity, deflecting Denis Potvin‘s rocket from the point off Mike Richter‘s shoulder then grazing the crossbar before flying harmlessly out of play.  At 8:21, Alexei Kovalev would take a drop pass just inside the home team blue line from Sergei Nemchinov and use Dave Langevin as a screen to beat Billy Smith stick side from 30 feet. With Gord Lane in the sin bin for high sticking at 17:19, the Rangers would score on their first power play opportunity of the game, Glenn Anderson snapping in a cross ice feed from captain Mark Messier over Smith’s blocker. At the end of one, the visitors quieted the home crowd substantially in building a two goal cushion, outshooting the Islanders 11-10.

Second Period : The Isles came out with much more jam to their game in the second period and took the play to the Rangers. Only Richter’s heroics in goal kept the score right where it had ended in the first period. Then at 4:57 the visitors would catch another break. Alexander Karpovtsev skated into the Isles zone just as two of his teammates were exiting it. An obvious off-sides call was missed and the Blueshirts took advantage with Craig MacTavish banging home a rebound after a scramble ensued in front of Billy Smith’s cage. With Al Arbour fuming and the Islanders looking for vengeance, they received it at 7:23 thanks to the sublime talent of super sniper Mike Bossy, who corralled a Bryan Trottier head man pass and beat Richter on a breakaway with his patented quick release snap shot between the pads. The Coliseum crowd erupted back to life with the home team trailing now by a score of 3-1. After another failed powerplay with Adam Graves penalized at 12:13 the second period horn sounded and both teams retreated into their respective dressing rooms. Shots in the second favored the home team 14-8.

Third Period : Clearly a turning point in the series had arrived. And the Rangers would take advantage of their new found opportunity as Adam Graves ran the lead back to three goals at the 2:37 mark, tipping a Sergei Zubov shot off the right post and behind Smith just 6 seconds after Gord Lane had entered the penalty box again, this time for abuse of the official. John Tonelli would tally a compensatory marker for the Isles at 14:05 but it would not be enough as the Rangers took back home ice advantage with a 4-2 victory, the first game in the series that did not end by a one goal margin. Third period shots 14-13 Islanders and 38-32 to the home team for the game.


Scoring Summary

Shots by Period

Three Stars of the Game

Rangers lead best of seven series 2 games to 1.

Can the Islanders bounce back at home in game four? Or will they fall to their most despised rivals and move to within one game from a nightmarish and unthinkable elimination? Stay tuned to Eyes On Isles as we bring you the result tomorrow.

-Andy (@tazman19)