The Islanders had made their plane reservations to Edmonton too early. Anticipating a victory over the Bruins here tonight, a victory that would have given the Islanders a 4-1 series finish, New York was jolted by an intense Boston attack that left the visitors on the short end of a 5-1 game.
Instead of flying west to begin the Stanley Cup finals on Sunday in Edmonton, the Islanders now must play the Bruins on Long Island Saturday night. And if the Bruins can take that one, to even the best-of-seven series at 3-3, the seventh game would return here on Sunday.
"We expected them to come out with everything," said Islanders Coach Al Arbour. "If they hadn't, they knew they were gone."
The Bruins weren't about to go anywhere except Uniondale for a sixth game. New York got its lone goal three minutes into the first period and, from then on, everything was Boston.
"I thought we had a little edge with that fluky goal of mine," said Bob Nystrom, who grabbed a pass from John Tonelli, swerved in toward Pete Peeters and took a shot from the point, hitting the top of the netting at 3:12.
"But then they scored so quick after that, and they didn't let up."
Indeed, the Bruins, forechecking far better than they had in their previous two losses in New York, took control of the game about two minutes later.
Craig MacTavish took a short pass from Keith Crowder just in front of goalie Billy Smith. Smith tried to sweep the puck away but MacTavish poked at it, hitting it into bottom of the net on Smith's left side.
Then Barry Pederson put the Bruins ahead, when Mike Krushelnyski skated in from the right wing corner with a pass for Rick Middleton. Middleton's shot became a rebound that Smith could not cover, and Pederson slid the puck behind the goalie at 6:15.
The Bruins never lost command after that. Goalie Peeters, who had given up 15 goals in the last two games and was stiff-legged at best, came to life tonight, making every stop count.
He received help in front of the net, too, as the Bruins effectively cleared the puck out of danger.
New York had been badly outplayed, and outshot (seven shots to the Bruins 21) in the opening period, but nothing improved over the next 20 minutes.
With Gord Lane out for hooking at 9:21, Boston needed just eight seconds to get the power play in gear.
Defenseman Ray Bourque carried the puck around Smith's cage and tucked it into the netting with a backhand shot on the goalie's right side, padding the Bruins' lead to 3-1.
Brad Park almost made it 4-1 on his own, but instead got an assist. He shot the puck from between the faceoff circles and it bounced high off the leg of Peter McNab, who stood screening Smith. McNab was credited with the goal, which hit the top corner of the net and dropped in at 12:06.
Luc Dufour set up the next goal, even if he didn't get a point for his effort.
Racing into the Islanders zone, he nearly faked Denis Potvin out of his skates as he shifted around him and centered the puck before neatly sending it cross ice. It seemed to go into the net off Islanders defenseman Stefan Persson, standing near Peeters, and was credited to the nearest Bruin, Bruce Crowder.
Smith was replaced by Roland Melanson at the start of the third period, but all the damage had been done.
Limited to seven shots in the last period, the Islanders were unable to generate enough effort to get close.
"It was the second and third periods that made a difference in this game," said MacTavish. "In the first two (games in Nassau Coliseum) we only played well in the first. Tonight we played 60 minutes. Now the pressure's on them; their backs are more to the wall Saturday than ours."
The Islanders played without defenseman Ken Morrow, who injured his right knee during Tuesday's game. Although he played for the remainder of that game, and practiced Wednesday, he underwent an arthroscopic examination later that day.