It's been 40 years since the New York Islanders last won the Stanley Cup.
On May 17, 1983, the Islanders completed a four-game sweep of the Edmonton Oilers with a 4-2 win at the Nassau Coliseum to capture their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. In doing so, they became only the second franchise in NHL history to win four consecutive cups and cemented their legacy as one of the greatest dynasties in all of professional sports.
Looking for the sweep against Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and the high-powered Oilers, the NHL's highest-scoring team during the 1982-83 season, the Islanders scored three times in a span of 1:37 in the first period to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Bryan Trottier scored on the power play at 11:02 to start the scoring, and John Tonelli scored his seventh of the playoffs just 42 seconds later off a feed from Bobby Nystrom.
Less than a minute after that, Mike Bossy found the net for the 17th time that postseason to send the Coliseum crowd into a frenzy. The goal ended up being the game-winner, making Bossy the first player since 1920-21 to score a Cup-winning goal in back-to-back years.
To the Oilers' credit, down 3-0 in the series and in the game, they didn't go quietly. Jari Kurri scored 35 seconds into the second period, and Messier bookended the period with another goal at 19:39. However, Edmonton would only manage seven shots on goal in the third period due in part because they spent five minutes shorthanded when Glenn Andersen assessed a five-minute major for slashing goaltender Billy Smith.
Edmonton head coach Glen Sather and the bench was incensed. Smith had already been involved in two major penalties in Game 2, one for his own slash against Gretzky in the closing minutes. The Islanders felt the NHL's leading scorer had embellished what Smith called a "love tap." This time, it was Smith's turn to embelish a bit. "He’ll probably be up for an Oscar for that, quipped Sather after the game. "Well, at least he’s starring Off-Broadway”.
"When I hit Gretzky in Edmonton, he rolled around and cried like he was dying, so when he hit me tonight, I said, 'hey, I may just well do the same thing,' so I threw myself on my back, and I squirmed," said Smith in the postgame.
Battlin' Billy made 24 saves in the game and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP after he shutout the Oilers in Game 1 and set the tone for the series and held Gretzky without a goal.
The Islanders and Oilers would of course meet again in the Stanley Cup Final the following season, with Edmonton putting an end to the Islanders dynasty and the "drive for five" after 19 consecutive playoff series wins - a record that may never be broken.