Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Islanders and New York Rangers continue their simulated best of seven ‘what-if’ series at Nassau Coliseum in game four.
After a 4-2 victory in game three, the Rangers seemed to have found their discipline and in turn, took the home ice advantage back from the Islanders, who won game one at Madison Square Garden.
Now, I feel I must preface this before continuing in response to a few (and I do mean a few, I thank all for reading and enjoying along with us) this is a SIMULATION using What-If-Sports engine. It is in no way meant to represent what we ‘think’ would happen or what we ‘know’ would have happened. We are just having some fun in the absence of anything relevant in the world of real authentic hockey news in the middle of August.
When you really think about it, the 1980 Islanders were supposed to get absolutely bombarded and swept by the much more powerful and experienced Philadelphia Flyers and we all know how that turned out. So file that thought in your cranium that mirrors the old sports adage, ‘anything can happen’. Trust me, you are going to want to know how this ends, no matter which side of the rooting spectrum you find yourself on.
New York Rangers @ New York Islanders
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
Game Four (Rangers lead best of seven 2-1)
First Period : The Islanders definitely had some mistakes to correct as they entered the first period of game four and they got off to the start they wanted in front of their home supporters as Bob Nystrom would find the back of the net at just the 4:20 mark off a nice cross crease pass from Garry Howatt. Sustaining it would be a whole different story as the ’80 Oilers East’ as they have been dubbed would quickly equalize at 5:42 then take a one goal lead just 17 second later on markers by ‘kissing bandit’ Esa Tikkanen and Sergei Nemchinov ; not exactly who you would have expected to beat Billy Smith on this night. In keeping with the trend of Islanders netting their first goals of this series, Anders Kallur would be the beneficiary of a lucky bounce off the end boards on a dump in by defenseman Stefan Persson to tie the contest at the 11:00 mark. The offense continued from both clubs, who were content to fire pucks from all angles and zones on goal to gain the upper hand. Mike Gartner (who somehow made it onto the What-If sports simulation roster for this match-up) netted again at 14:19 on a blistering slap shot that Smith caught with only a portion of his glove, allowing the puck to dribble across the goal line. With yet another momentum shift, Howatt would spear Mark Messier in the neutral zone, allowing Nemchinov to net his second of the period on the power play at the 15:20 mark and the Rangers were off to another multiple goal lead in the first period, a troubling recent trend for the home team. The period would end with shots favoring the Isles 18-17 but the Rangers leading 4-2.
Second Period : Something had to fire up the home crowd early for the Islanders to regain some footing in this contest and at the 2:33 mark, gummy helmet himself, Butch Goring, would pounce on a rebound off a Bob Lorimer shot to close the gap yet again. The intensity in the Coliseum had most fans standing and those who remained seated did so on the edge of their plastic tush holder. The Rangers continued to pour shot after shot on Smith with Messier ringing the goal post and Steve Larmer being denied by a sliding block by Isles captain Denis Potvin on a 2 on 1 break with Alexei Kovalev. But at 10:42 it would be the blue and orange’s ultimate nemesis in this series, Gartner, who would score again off a Brian Leetch rebound to make it 5-3 Rangers. That would ultimately end the night for Smith, who was replaced between the pipes by Glenn ‘Chico’ Resch for the duration. Not a good omen when your ‘money’ goaltender gets pulled in a huge game four of a hotly contested series. The period would end with the Blueshirts dominating in shots 19-11 and taking a two goal lead into the third with the series hanging in the balance.
Third Period : Now it has to be expected that the Rangers would sit back and try to nurse their lead to a huge series advantage but they surprisingly went the totally opposite direction. Continuing to pepper the Islanders cage with shot after shot, Resch stood on his head (at times, literally) to thwart the attacks and keep his team in striking distance. Staying out of the penalty box had become paramount according to Mike Keenan and after doing such a great job in game three and across two periods of game four, it bit the Rangers yet again. Jeff Beukeboom took an ill-advised boarding penalty, ramming Wayne Merrick‘s head into the back boards and Clark Gillies would pounce on the power play. With 18 tense minutes remaining, the never say die Isles still had plenty of life. Two more failed power plays would draw the ire of Keenan (who must have felt there was some ‘homer’ officiating going on) as the Rangers killed infractions to Stephane Matteau and Adam Graves. With time running out in the period and the Blueshirts clinging for dear life, Arbour ordered Resch to the bench for an extra attacker with 90 seconds remaining on the clock. At 19:07 the Coliseum would become delirious as Bryan Trottier would come through in the clutch, roofing a shot over a sliding Richter to tie the game. Resch returned to his net and we would have another overtime in the series. Shots in the third favored the Rangers 18-15 and at the end of regulation 54-44.
Overtime : Oh boy did this ever end quickly. I go back to what I had said in game two, overtimes in the National Hockey League always seem to end real early or real late. I cannot explain why, they just do and it has to be accepted. Clark Gillies, right off the opening face-off, cross-checked Larmer in the back of the helmet and the Rangers sniper went down like a Manchester United forward getting ‘air-tackled’ while racing down the sideline at Old Trafford. The official, so generous to the Isles in the third period, bought it hook, line and sinker (almost as bad as the Crosby call this year against the Isles in the playoffs). It would take just 44 seconds for Glenn Anderson to complete a tic-tac-toe passing play between himself, Messier and Nemchinov to win the game for the Rangers. Needless to say, it was the only shot in overtime and could have put everything but the headstone on the Islanders grave in this series.
With the series shifting back to Manhattan for game five, what could the resilient Islanders have up their sleeve? Can Al Arbour summon enough magic to lift his team’s spirits and force another home game at the old barn?
Tune in tomorrow for game five.