The New York Islanders used champagne to wash away their "choke" label today. Bob Nystrom's second goal of the game, at 7 minutes 11 seconds of suddendeath overtime, brought the Islanders that long-awaited party, with the Stanley Cup as an overflowing centerpiece.
There were uneasy moments, however, as there have been throughout the Islanders' 8-year-history. The injury-plagued, weary Philadelphia Flyers, down 4-2 after the second period, rallied to tie the game on goals by Bob Dailey and John Paddock, and there had to be fear in the Islanders' locker room, because a seventh game in Philadelphia loomed unhappily on the horizon.
All was joy after John Tonelli crossed the blue line, waited until Nystrom sailed past defender Dailey and put a perfect pass on his stick, so that Nystrom merely had to tip it beyond the reach of gallant goalie Pete Peeters; the Islanders had won the cup, four games to two.
"It was the second time tonight John Tonelli laid a perfect pass on my stick and all I had to do was tap it in," Nystrom said in the bedlam of the Islander dressing room. "Then the players were on me so fast I didn't have time to think.
"I still had the feeling we'd win it after the third period, because overtime is our bread and butter. The guys on this team just weren't ready to die.We are winners and we proved a lot to a lot of people around the league."
This was the fourth career overtime goal for Nystrom and gave the Islanders a 16-4 extra-period record, 6-1 this year. That is a pretty good mark under pressure for a team that has a reputation of choking, because it had never won a big series.
"The media can take that choke label and shove it," said Potvin, who added that the Flyers had been mentioning it in on-ice conversation after the score had been tied.
The Flyers, rarely the object of sympathy because of their penchant for outrageous behavior on the ice, earned more respect and admiration in defeat today than they have from past victories.
Dailey, Paul Holmgren and Jim Watson were skating despite seemingly disabling injuries, while Tom Gorence packed it in after the warmup. Then, forced to combat seven Islander power plays in the first two periods, the Flyers became so weary on some line changes that they were bumping each other and dropping sticks.
Added to that feeling of being drained was the manner in which some of the Islander goals were scored. The first appeared to result from a high stick, the second unquestionably followed an uncalled offside, the third was a power-play effort set up by a preposterous penalty and the fourth was scored by a guy who probably should have been in the penalty box.
It would have been easy, under all these adverse circumstances, for the Flyers to pack it in after the second period. Instead, they dominated the third period and came close to evening the series. For a final touch, Coach Pat Quinn refused to exploit the officials obvious deficiencies.
"It would be wrong for me to speak at this time," Quinn said. "It would taint the Islanders' victory and they worked hard for it. I'm proud of my players, because they battled today in spite of hard luck or whatever."
The Flyers benefited from the officiating to score the game's first goal. Referee Bob Myers did not see Flyer Bob Kelly swing twice at Ken Morrow before Nystrom waffled Kelly, so Nystrom received an extra minor. When Potvin was chased for a cross check, the Flyers used the two-man advantage, Reg Leach netting his first goal of the series.
That was Philadelphia's last break. With Flyer Mike Busniuk off for holding, Potvin tied the score, chopping the puck into the net after Peeters had popped it high in the air with his glove. It appeared the impact might have come with the stick above Potvin's shoulder.
"It was not a high stick," Nyers said. "The stick was around his chest area and that is not illegal. He came down with his stick and tapped in front."
If that goal was questionable, there was no doubt that Butch Goring was offside before he set up Duane Sutter for the Islanders' second goal. Clark Gillies crossed the Flyer blueline and dropped the puck to Goring, who was at least a foot behind the line.
The crowd reaction indicated that even the partisan fans recognized the offside, but linesman Leon Stickle gave the palms-down signal.
"I was in the right position," Stickle said later. "I guess I blew it. Maybe there was tape on the stick and it confused me. Maybe I was too close to the play. Apparently, the replay showed I missed it."
Brian Propp pulled the Flyers even at 2-2, before New York's 25th power play of the playoffs and 15th of this series -- both records -- sent the Islanders back in front. The man in the box was Behn Wilson, called for holding when New York's Clark Gillies leaned on him and took a dive.
Mike Bossy netted that one and Nystrom made it 4-2 on a Tonelli setup 14 seconds before the second period ended. With 4:51 left in the period, Nystrom, after a slight hook by Wilson, had barreled into Peeters and knocked the goalie's head into the crossbar.
Much extracurricular activity followed and there was the potential for real trouble, but the only penalties went to Potvin and Flyer Ken Linsemen, each for charging. Nystrom, who seemed to deserve a major penalty, was still around later to score goal No. 4.
Dailey hit from the right point early in the third period and ex-Capital Paddock, subbing for the injured Gorence, deflected a Moose Dupont blast to pull the Flyers even. It was Paddock's second goal on only two Stanley Cup shots.
It was not enough however, and soon the Islander fans were proving their ability to create even more noise than in their infamous pregame drowning out of the national anthem.