Islanders: Four incredible facts from the 1987 Easter Epic

Hall of Fame member Pat Lafontaine (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Hall of Fame member Pat Lafontaine (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Today marks the day the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 after four OT periods in 1987. Thirty-three years ago today was the Easter Epic.

It was 33 years ago today, that the New York Islanders eliminated the Washington Capitals in game seven of their first-round playoff matchup. The game was and remains absolutely legendary. It took four overtime periods to settle the tie. Four overtime periods!

The game was still going on at 2 am the next day! The game started on Saturday night and ended early on Easter Sunday morning. Hence the name, Easter Epic.

When we romanticize about the battle of wills that is the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is the game that has to come to mind. For six hours, these two teams fought each other for every inch of ice. For six hours, neither team gave up an inch.

That is until the puck found Pat LaFontaine at the point. The future Hall of Fame player stepped up and unleashed a slap shot that beat Bob Mason to end the tie and the series.

Speaking of the goal in 2017 to, LaFontaine remembered the scene in the arena just before scoring the winner:

"We were kind of sitting back and there’s 75 shots to 57. It’s almost 2 o’clock in the morning and I looked in the stands and there were people sleeping in the stands. I was wondering, ‘Is this really happening?’ But sure enough, we were able to score that goal and come back from down three games to one."

After being down 3-1 in the series, the Islanders fought back to win three straight games capped off by this epic victory in game seven.

The win was incredible and will be talked about for years. But there are some incredible facts about the game outside of just the result.

Incredible Facts

Kelly Hrudey made 73 saves

Through nearly six-and-a-half periods, Kelly Hrudey made an incredible 73 saves. That’s still an NHL record for a single game. Either in the playoffs or in the regular season.

Washington’s Grant Martin put his team up 2-1 at 18:45 of the second period, and Hrudey slammed the door shut the rest of the way stopping all 50 shots he faced the rest of the way.

The previous record was held by Bernie Parent, who made 63 saves for the Philadelphia Flyers against the St Louis Blues on April 16, 1968.*

(*Shots were only counted as of the 1959-60 season.)

Bobby Gould had 12 shots on net and didn’t score

Bobby Gould had twelve shots on net in this game and didn’t score a goal. That sounds impossible. Especially considering the era this particular game was played in. We aren’t talking about butterfly goalies with massive pads that we know today. This is still a standup goalie era with next to no equipment compared to today’s standards.

Gould wasn’t the only player who had 12 (or more) shots in a playoff game and failed to score. But it rarely happened.

Booby Smith was the first player to get 12+ shots on goals (he had 13) and did not score a goal. That happened on April 9, 1983.

Since Smith and Gould, it’s only happened two other times that a player gets 12+ shots on net in a playoff game and doesn’t score. Brett Hull did it on April 22, 1994, and Sergei Fedorov did it on June 11, 1998.

(Again, shots weren’t counted until the 1959-60 season.)

No goals for 74+ minutes

At 14:37 of the third period, Islanders legend Bryan Trottier would tie the game at 2-2. The next goal scored wasn’t until LaFontaine’s OT winner at 8:47 of the fourth overtime period.

That’s 74 minutes and ten seconds without a goal. Think about that for a second. These two teams had already played 91 percent of a regulation game when Trottier tied it up. They then played the length of another full regulation game plus 14 minutes before scoring the next goal.

That’s absolutely wild.

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Longest game seven of all time

If you think that this game has to be the longest playoff game of all time, you’d be wrong. It’s insane to think there’s a longer game, but on March 24, 1936, the Montreal Maroons and Detroit Red Wings played 116 minutes and 30 seconds of overtime. Almost double the Easter Epic.

With that being said, the Easter Epic is the longest game seven ever to be played in the NHL.