The New York Islanders and Minnesota North Stars should have shaken hands tonight and gone home. The North Stars gave everything they had in building a 3-1 lead, then battling back from a 6-4 deficit, but in the end the Islanders prevailed, 7-5, to take an overwhelming 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final.
Butch Goring scored three goals for his first playoff hat trick and Mike Bossy added two to disappoint a crowd of 15,784 that had given the North Stars a tremendous emotional life in their first-ever hosting of a Cup final game. They will see another contest here Tuesday, but there no longer is any doubt about the winner.
"Now we have three wins and I don't think any team can beat us four in a row," Goring said. Few would argue, since the Islanders have been beaten only three times in their last 33 games.
"I don't think we can give any more effort," said Minnesota Coach Glen Sonmor. "We can be a little sharper mentally, make sure somebody locates Mr. Bossy when the puck is in our end and not carry the puck in front of our net. But this was our best effort by far and it still wasn't enough."
The North Stars came out hitting, shutting down the Islanders in their end, and grabbed a 1-0 lead on Steve Christoff's power-play goal at 3:25. Steve Payne made it 2-0 with his 15th playoff goal, but Bossy regained the goal-scoring lead with his 16th 38 seconds later. A deflection by Bobby Smith sent the North Stars to the first intermission with a 3-1 advantage.
That did not faze the Islanders, who had battled back from a similar situation in the second game of the semifinals against the Rangers.
"When it was 3-1, nobody hung their head on the bench and waited for the next game," said Islander Coach Al Arbour. "We wanted this one."
The Islanders' forechecking quickly reversed the momentum, as the North Stars had difficulty clearing their zone. Bob Nystrom, off John Tonelli's feed, made it 3-2, then the Islanders' potent power play evened the score.
With Bobby Smith off for tripping, Goring fired from just inside the blueline and the puck skidded off the stick of North Star Mike Polich past goalie Gilles Meloche, who was screened by Bob Bourne.
A penalty to Islander Clark Gillies gave Minnesota a chance to recoup, but the Islanders killed it and Gillies raced out of the penalty box to steal the puck from Tim Young and bat it toward the net in one motion. Meloche made the save, but the puck popped into the air and Goring netted the rebound.
"I picked it out in midair on the backhand," Goring said. "It was one of those things where you take a swipe and sometimes get lucky."
Payne converted a Young feed to tie it at 1:11 of the third period. Once again, Bossy needed less than a minute to regain goal-scoring honors. He took Bryan Trottier's pass 54 seconds later and hit from the right-wing circle for his 17th of the playoffs.
Goring, alone in front, was set up by Billy Carroll from behind the net with 13:26 left in the game and made it 6-4. He celebrated his second Stanley Cup hat trick -- the other came with Los Angeles in 1977 -- by dancing a jig in front of the net.
"I'm excited, because it's the first time I've scored three goals in a long time," Goring said. "But winning the Stanley Cup is the only thing that's important."
The North Stars took one last shot at getting back into contention. Dino Ciccarelli came around the Islander net and caromed a shot off goalie Bill Smith's skate to pull Minnesota up to 6-5 with 6:25 remaining. Then, with a minute to go, Bill Smith made big saves on Brad Palmer and Neal Broten to keep New York in front.
Meloche was pulled for a sixth skater with 59 seconds left and Trottier hit the empty net on a Bossy setup 15 seconds later.
"It was a tough hockey game, a long hockey game," Goring said. "The North Stars gave us a heck of a battle. They kept pressing us and when we got two goals up we thought they'd pack it in, but they came back and we were lucky it didn't go into overtime."
This exciting anticlimax to the awarding of the Cup contained several record-setting performances.
Bossy, with four points, boosted his playoff total to 33, shattering the record of 29 set by Trottier last year. Islander Denis Potvin, with two assists, raised his point total to 25, bettering Bobby Orr's 1972 mark of 24 by a defenseman. Ciccarelli's two points gave him 21, one more than Ranger Don Maloney's rookie point standard of two years ago. Ciccarelli has 14 goals; Christoff set the old rookie mark of eight last year.
"This game certainly certifies our team," Arbour said. "We were patient, determined and we hung tough when we had to.
"The effort of Butch Goring, the performance he had tonight on a regular shift, killing penalties and the power play, he was just excellent out there. He has been all through the playoffs. He's not a big fellow, but he has a big heart."