On this date in 1987, the game forever known as the Easter Epic started as the NY Islanders visited the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Patrick Division Semifinals in Landover, MD.
Islanders fans know that it was future Hall-of-Famer Pat LaFontaine that ended the game at 8:47 of the 4OT when he spun at the blue line and blasted a slap shot past screened Caps goaltender Bob Mason. However, the only reason why the two teams were playing in the early hours of Sunday morning was that Kelly Hrudey had the game of his life and put on one of the most magnificent displays of goaltending the NHL has ever seen.
“It was such a great game to be a part of and great memories,” Hrudey recalled back in April 2020. “I think all of us recognized the magnitude of the game and how unique it is, and we knew it was going to be a game that was going to be talked about for a very long time."
Hrudey made 73 saves, a record that stood for 33 years until Joonas Korpisalo stopped 85 of 88 shots for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their playoff series in the Toronto bubble on Aug. 10, 2020.
“It’s a cool feeling having that record, knowing that nobody has ever made more saves in an NHL playoff game than yourself, which is phenomenal to think about and hard to believe,” Hrudey said a few months before his record was broken. “(But) I am completely shocked that not only hasn’t anyone made more saves but that the record hasn’t been shattered.”
Kelly Hrudey's Islander Tenure
His Islanders tenure is wedged in between Billy Smith winning Stanley Cups and Glenn Healy leading the team to a historic upset over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993. When highlights of the Easter Epic are shown, saves from both Hrudey and Mason are highlighted throughout, but the punctuation is always LaFontaine's goal. Maybe if another, less revered player had ended the marathon, Hrudey's history-making performance would have been more celebrated through the decades that followed.
Hrudey joined an Islanders team that had won four consecutive Stanley Cups for the 1983-84 season at age 23, appearing in 12 games and recording a 7-2-0 record. Across the NHL, he's most recognized as a hockey analyst for Sportsnet and for being the goaltender of Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings team that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1993 vs. the Montreal Canadiens.
On Feb. 22, 1989, he was traded to the Kings for Doug Crossman, Mark Fitzpatrick, and Wayne McBean. "We were flying to Buffalo to play the next night and Al came up to me after the game and told me they were leaving me at home to rest me. Then I met with Bill Torrey [Islanders GM] the next morning and later that afternoon I was off to Los Angeles," Hrudey explained in a 2019 interview.
Looking back at Hrudey's tenure on Long Island, it wasn't just that game that is often overlooked. He put together some excellent seasons between the pipes for the Islanders. Don't let the 1980s GAA fool you; Hrudey finished in the top 5 in voting for the Vezina Trophy twice as an Islander, placing fifth in 1985-86 and third following the 1987-88 season, the last time the Islanders won a division title.
Hrudey's performance is an importance piece of Islanders history we recall around this time each season and his legacy with the team is something we should reflect back on more often.