It was blazing hot and sunbathers were numerous today, but the Minnesota North Stars refused to put away their hockey sticks. Steve Payne's goal with 7:34 remaining and Bobby Smith's power-play score with 1:48 left carried the North Stars to an exciting 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders and forced a fifth game in the Stanley Cup final series Thursday at Nassau Coliseum.
The defending champion Islanders, who still hold a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven showdown, were losing for only the fourth time in their last 34 games.
Defensemen Brad Maxwell, injured in a fight with Bob Bourne in Game 2, returned to the Minnesota lineup tonight and assisted on all four goals. It was his drive from the right point that Payne deflected past Islander goalie Bill Smith for the victory, after the teams had battled up an down the ice for 25 minutes without a score.
"There was a scramble in the corner and Al MacAdam came up with the puck," said Payne of his 17th playoff goal. "I was trying to position myself in front, figuring he'd go to the point. But there were several passes and I had to jostle with their defenseman (Bob Lorimer) to stay there. I managed to get loose from him and I got my stick on Brad's shot when the puck finally got to the point."
The uproar from the 15,784 fans when Payne scored made one wonder what will happen to human eardrums if this team manages to get back here for Game 6.
"To look at four games against this team is mind boggling," said Minnesota Coach Glen Sonmor. "Instead, we have to say, 'They've got to beat us once and tonight isn't it.' We'll do the same thing Thursday night and hope we play another game with very few mistakes and get superlative goaltending. You have to get superlative goaltending to beat this team and Donny Beaupre gave it to us tonight."
"Paul Shmyr put a big hit on Denis Potvin in the first period and that gave us all a big lift," Brad Maxwell said. "It was a case of play some more or go golfing and we didn't want people coming up all summer asking us what happened.
Former Washington defenseman Gord Lane sent the Islanders in front with a 45-foot drive at 3:47 and, when Minnesota's Craig Hartsburg was penalized for slashing 13 seconds later, the North Stars were in deep trouble.
Then Shmyr hammered Potvin and the North Stars got into the game. They poured on the offensive pressure and Hartsburg netted a tying 45-footer with the Islanders' Dave Langevin in the penalty box for cross checking. Brad Maxwell fired a shot that appeared to hit a post moments earlier, but the North Stars claimed it had gone through the net and argued so vehemently when play stopped that the crowd momentarily booed, thinking Hartsburg's score had been disallowed.
Al MacAdam, cutting into the slot, controlled a Payne pass with his skate and beat Islander goalie Bill Smith early in the second period to put Minnesota ahead. But Islander Mike McEwen connected from the right point 2 1/2 minutes later for New York's 30th playoff power-lay goal.
It stayed 2-2 until Payne scored the winner, but the fans though Minnesota had pulled ahead earlier, Bobby Smith scoring from the right-wing circle an instant after the green light signalled the end of the third period.
Smith scored one that counted from the same location with 1:48 left in the game, after New York's Denis Potvin had been bounced for holding Kevin Maxwell.