The New York Islanders set a Stanley Cup record tonight by charging $29 for tickets to their Prince of Wales Conference opener against the Quebec Nordiques. Despite the high tariff--less desirable locations went for $25 and $20--only 134 tickets went unsold.
Presumably, the 15,137 in Nassau Coliseum got their money's worth, as the Islanders shut down Quebec's offense and scored a 4-1 victory against a team that had victimized them for 19 goals in three regular-season contests.
Bryan Trottier, Butch Goring, Denis Potvin and Wayne Merrick scored for New York, which has lost only two of its last 30 home games. Nevertheless, few in the Islanders' camp were satisfied with the performance.
Coach Al Arbour was irked that his club, which permitted the Nordiques only 14 shots over the first two periods, allowed that many in the third alone.
"In the third period we stopped forcing things and stood around and waited for them," Arbour said. "We weren't aggressive. Before this series is over, we're going to become more aggressive--not only aggressive physically but we're going to bring more power against them."
Goalie Bill Smith stopped 27 shots by Quebec and insisted afterward that he had turned back all 28. The Nordiques' only score, which cut the Islanders' lead to 2-1 at 7:02 of the third period, came on a rebound by Peter Stastny, on which Smith reached back and swatted the puck out before it reached the net.
It appeared to be over the goal line, which is all that matters, and both referee Bruce Hood and the neutral goal judge, from Toronto, signaled a score.
"It wasn't in," Smith insisted. "It was no more in than a fly in the air. I've got terrific eyesight and you can't tell me the old guy behind me can see better than I can. My glove was on it and there's no way he could tell from four feet behind me, through the net, that it was over the line. Why would I lie? We won anyway."
That goal made the folks shiver a bit, but the Nordiques' bid to tie never achieved truly dangerous status before Potvin wrapped it up for New York with 6:14 remaining. Mike Bossy made the play, circling defenseman Dave Pichette on the left side and feeding Potvin in the slot.
Merrick completed the scoring with 4:20 left, on a similar setup by John Tonelli.
A key figure for the Islanders was Goring, who seems to slumber through the regular season and then performs well in the playoffs. Goring produced the winning goal at 12:15 of the second period, slipping behind the Quebec defense on an exchange of passes with Duane Sutter.
It was Goring's fourth goal in the last four games; he had only 15 during the regular season. Last year he had 10 and won the Conn Smythe trophy as the outstanding player in the playoffs.
Both Trottier and Goring scored on power plays, as the Nordiques took some foolish penalties. Goalie Dan Bouchard, who lost his stick when Sutter checked him in the corner, came out of the crease the next time Sutter approached and bumped him, drawing an interference penalty. When Goring scored, the box was occupied by Gaston Therrien, who responded to a check by Billy Carroll by punching him in the back of the head.
The Nordiques scored on a power play, too, but they were one for four on the night and otherwise had few chances, as Carroll and Goring repeatedly broke up their plays.
"We worked hard," Goring said. "You have to get on them as quick as you can. We'll let them pass around the boards and the blueline, but we don't want them passing in the middle. That's when they're dangerous. For the most part, I think we cut them off."
Each team had a goal disallowed. Quebec's Wilf Paiement batted the puck between Smith's legs with his glove early in the first period and Sutter hit a rebound past Bouchard in the second, only to be penalized instead for interference.
The series resumes here Thursday, then moves to Quebec for Games 3 and 4 Saturday and Tuesday.
In Chicago, Jim Nill's goal at 8:58 of the second overtime gave Vancouver the victory in the opening game of their Stanley Cup semifinal series.
Nill's goal came on a pass from Harold Snepsts to end the longest game this season in the NHL.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven Campbell Conference series will be played Thursday at Chicago.
Nill's goal, his second of the playoffs, ended more than three consecutive scoreless periods in the defense-oriented contest. Close checking by both teams led to several fights in the middle session. Six major penalties--three on each team--were assessed.
Vancouver scored the game's first goal at 8:02. Thomas Gradin took a pass at the blueline from Curt Fraser and hit it to the right of Chicago goalie Tony Esposito.
The Black Hawks, who eliminated St. Louis in the Norris Division finals by taking advantage of power play chances, could not cash in on two opportunities in the first period.