To hear the New York Islanders tell it, one might actually believe their defeat of the Boston Bruins tonight had been a closely fought, hard-won 2-1 game. "Did we struggle," said Bob Nystrom. "We struggled the whole night."
But the struggle resulted in a closely fought 7-3 victory, and a 2-1 edge in the Wales Conference final for the Islanders, who had experienced plenty of frustration in losing the second game of the series in Boston on Thursday.
"In the last game, we got lots of opportunities, but we didn't do anything with them," said Mike Bossy. He had scored a power play goal of his own tonight, and assisted on three other goals. "Tonight I think it was just concentration on what we didn't do the other night. Boston got lots more chances but we made ours count."
Indeed, the Islanders opened the game on Nystrom's goal just three minutes in. Craig MacTavish of the Bruins evened the score just over a minute later, but after that, it was Islanders time. Brent Sutter and Bryan Trottier each scored, giving New York a 3-1 lead after the opening period. Boston's power play edged the Bruins closer with the first of Ray Bourque's two goals, but Bossy, set up by Trottier, provided a glimpse of what the night would be like for Boston.
"I just kind of slam-dunked it," Bossy said with a grin, describing his goal. Trottier, in the corner, swept the puck to his linemate, standing squarely in front of goalie Pete Peeters. "All I had to do was be there," Bossy said.
Bossy had orchestrated Trottier's earlier goal in much the same way, skating at top speed into the Boston zone before stopping on a dime and whacking the puck cross ice. Trottier, moving around the net, hardly touched the puck or slowed it in putting it behind Peeters.
"Tonight the pucks went in, that's all," Bossy said.
Bourque's unassisted goal at the start of the third period brought Boston within breathing distance of the Islanders, a 4-3 advantage that might have turned into a deficit if the Bruins' luck had matched their determination, but Ken Morrow dispelled thoughts of overtime.
He shot once, watched the puck come back into play, to Bossy and Anders Kallur, before he could try again.
If Morrow's goal lifted the game just enough out of reach, the next two goals forced Boston to look ahead to Tuesday's game here.
Frustrated by their lack of success, the Bruins, who had hustled, bumped and generally appeared efficient earlier, began to deteriorate. First Mike Krushelnyski took a roughing penalty at 16:16 of the last period, giving the Islanders their fourth power play of the night.
Then Peeters, who had looked unsure of himself and shaky on some shots, took a wild swing at Duane Sutter, skating near his cage. Peeters was immediately assessed a slashing penalty.
"I don't think our goaltender was really affected (by frustration) until maybe there were three minutes left," said defenseman Brad Park. "And if Pete was going to take a penalty, I figured he'll make sure it's a dandy. He's played so well for us, he can take as many penalties as he wants."
With the Bruins two men short (Barry Pederson served Peeters' penalty), the Islanders' Denis Potvin took a pinpoint feed from Tomas Jonsson, shoveling it toward the net from the faceoff circle at 17:57.
Boston's frustrations increased when Butch Goring, aided by John Tonelli, took the puck and practically flew with it into Peeters' cage with 56 seconds left in the game.
Peeters shunned the media after the game, but Bruins Coach Gerry Cheevers would not pin the blame on his goalie. "It's frustrating to get penalties the way we did, because we're not killing them well," he said. "We'll just have to go on to the next one."