1981-82 Round 1
Result: 3-2 series win
Islanders top scorer: Clark Gillies (8 points)
This was very much a David and Goliath situation, of sorts.
The Islanders were Goliath in the fact that they were without question the better team. With a 54-16-10 record in the regular season, the Islanders finished with 43 more points than the Penguins did. On paper the Penguins had no chance.
And it started out that way. The Islanders dominated the first two games with an unbelievable +12 goal differential. But then the series changed as it went to Pittsburgh.
Outside of Fort Neverlose the Islanders weren’t this “giant” so to speak. The Penguins took Game 3 and 4 by a combined score of 7-3 and forced what seemed like an improbable Game 5 when the series began.
The Islanders were facing a lose-and-go-home situation in Round 1 after back-to-back Cups in 80 and 81. In both championship runs the Islanders didn’t face elimination once, and now here they were facing elimination at the first hurdle against an unlikely opponent.
And look, it wasn’t a walk-in-the-park in Game 5 back at home. With three unanswered goals in the second period, the Penguins were up 3-1. The score remained that way for much of the third period until Mike McEwen popped in a power-play goal on a Randy Carlyle hooking penalty 14:33 into the third.
The Isles clearly didn’t like the idea of facing elimination. They only lost twice over the next three rounds – both times to the Rangers in round 3 – as they picked up their third Stanley Cup in a row.