The Rangers-Islanders Stanley Cup semifinal series, which captivated New York two years ago, barely created a ripple of excitement this time.
The Islanders, defending Cup champions and first-place finishers this season, exacted merciless revenge for that 1979 defeat with a four-game sweep, outscoring the 13th-place Rangers, 22-8.
The Rangers held early leads in the first two games at Nassau Coliseum, only to be overwhelmed each time. Then, in the two games at Madison Square Garden, where the Islanders had not won since the 1979 playoffs, they built big early leads that quieted the noisy crowd and enabled them to maintain control with relentless forechecking.
"We went into every game to win," said Wayne Merrick, one of those tireless Islander forecheckers who prevented the Rangers offense from getting started and turned the majore portion of each game into a stifling bore for non-Isander fans. "We didn't want to lose even once. We didn't want to read in the papers that we did this wrong or didn't play well.
"Hey, we wanted to play them. We were reading how they're this and that, they're playing well and they wanted to beat us. We were mentally prepared and, if you pay the price, you're going to win."
The Islanders' fast finish earned them a few extra days of rest, as they await the outcome of the other semi-final between Minnesota and Calgary. The North Stars Lead, 3-1, with the fifth game in Calgary Thursday, and just about everyone expects Minnesota to be a finalist. Certainly, the incorrigible Madison Square Garden fans do, as they showed by chanting, "Let's go, North Stars," in the closing minutes of Tuesday's windup here.
"It's going to be a hell of a final -- if we play Minnesota, it'll be a hell of a final," said Mike Bossy, who scored two goals Tuesday and needs only three points to shatter the Stanley Cup record of 29 that linemate Bryan Trottier set last year. "But let's not talk about that; let's enjoy this one."
Bossy enjoyed the series, with five goals and an assist. His two power-play goals Tuesday gave him a playoff record of eight and enabled the Islanders to set a mark of 26, one more than they had last year.
"Our power play was great," Bossy said. "If they wanted to play physical, they knew our power play was going good. Our penalty killing was great, too. Overall, we just played super hockey.
"We have a lot more confidence in ourselves now than last year; not that we weren't confident last year. But we know each other now. We know what one guy can do and can't do. We talk to each other out there and we're a year older, with one more year's experience. We're ready now, ready for anybody."
Ranger Coach Craig Patrick, asked how good the Islanders really are said, "They've got to rate pretty high. It's tough to find a weakness out there. They're going to be tough to beat, but the game of hockey is funny. If you run into a hot club and a hot goaltender, you can't tell what might happen. They will be tough, though."
Despite the rout, the Rangers received a loud postgame ovation from their fans.