The chant began somewhere up in what might be called the cheap seats, if $25 tickets could ever qualify as cheap.

"Nineteen-forty, Nineteen-forty!" yelled the Islanders' fans, reminding the Rangers the Stanley Cup had not been theirs in 43 years.

If tonight's game was any indication, they may have to wait 44 years for another chance.

The Islanders dominated, outskated and frustrated their local rivals in a 7-2 victory, taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Even if the Rangers had shown plenty of muscle in the previous two games, winning those with relative ease, tonight they reverted to the form they had shown in the series' opening two games: flat.

Playing without Don Maloney, out with a virus, and his brother Dave, who had a leg problem, hardly helped.

"We didn't play a transitional game. Our defense was just brutal," said Rangers Coach Herb Brooks. "You could see it in the first 10 minutes."

Indeed, during the first half of the opening period, the Islanders were outhustling the Rangers, even if they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard until 13:18.

Bryan Trottier, back after missing three games with a knee injury, scored the first goal, taking a feed from Bob Nystrom and Ken Morrow. The Rangers' Reijo Ruotsalainen evened the score, 1-1, with less than two minutes remaining in the period, but the Islanders nearly took the lead away again when Denis Potvin passed the puck to Mike Bossy, who flipped it behind goalie Eddie Mio.

"I couldn't believe the goal judges missed it," Bossy said of his apparent score that was ruled no good. "But it didn't make any difference anyway."

Bossy opened the second period with a real goal, at 4:01, a power play shot set up by Potvin and Trottier. "They had to give me that one," Bossy said, smiling. "They had no choice."

Three more Islanders goals--by Gord Lane, Duane Sutter and Bob Bourne--provided the 5-1 edge that put the game out of reach, despite Robbie Ftorek's goal late in that period.

Third-period goals by Brent Sutter and Potvin forced the Rangers to forget about tonight and start thinking ahead to Friday's game in Madison Square Garden.

"We did have some chances in the third period but by then, it was out of the question," said Brooks. "We just gave them the third period."

Both Brooks and Islanders Coach Al Arbour wondered aloud about the lack of consistency shown by both clubs in this series.

"It certainly looks like the home ice is something," said Arbour. "We win here, they win there. In the last game, we weren't heading for the net very well. Tonight that was much better. Now if we can just carry this over to the Garden, though you know they're a good club and they'll be coming back."

Asked just how important Trottier's return was to his team, Arbour said, "Certainly he's a big part of it, but when a guy like that is out, you hope that other guys will pick up."

One other guy who has picked up has been Bourne. Skating with the Sutter brothers, he set up each of their goals tonight, plus Gord Lane's, and scored his own on a rink-length rush.

"That's one of the nicest goals I've ever seen and as fast as I've seen him skate," Arbour said with a rare smile.

Bourne, a modest fellow, tried to downplay his accomplishments. "For our line, everything just seems to be working," he said. "We have a lot of confidence, because we've been through the playoffs so many times. Today I was feeling a little nervous, but we don't get scared. When we channel our energies, we've got lots of experience, and it can make a difference."