Jubilation threatened to rock the Nassau Coliseum off its foundation, with Islanders' fanatics still hysterically yelping nearly an hour after the team had clinched its fourth straight Stanley Cup Tuesday night.
The Edmonton Oilers' dressing room was almost silent. The players not ducking the media mob by lingering in the showers ran combs through their hair and offered no pretense of a smile. "It just didn't happen for us this year," Mark Messier said.
Wayne Gretzky, the central character in the Edmonton cast and hockey's greatest player, was nowhere to be seen, just as he had been invisible throughout the four-game final round. The New York Islanders had bottled the sport's whiz kid.
Gretzky had totaled only four assists in the four games and, despite opportunities put on his stick, did not score a goal against Billy Smith. He entered the final series with 12 playoff goals.
"Any time we did break them down, Smith was always there with the save," Gretzky said later, understandably subdued. "I know I was pressing to get the puck in the net. I am definitely paid to do that, and it bothered me that I was not able to make that contribution."
To a man, the Islanders players said they had not set up a specific "Stop Wayne" campaign. "It wasn't just Gretzky," Butch Goring said. "We knew the way Edmonton would play, and there were guys around Gretzky we had to stop as well. And we didn't have any one guy on Gretzky. It was just whoever was near him."
The Islanders' solid checking was principally what did Gretzky in, according to Bob Bourne. "We didn't let up on them," he said, "and we knew Gretzky could come up with the goals if he had the chance. We took away his wingers and he couldn't capitalize on his opportunities."
Said Gretzky: "I'm disappointed, yes. But these were the kind of games where one goal could have turned it around for us. I think we played well. I just could not get by Billy Smith."
Smith, who found himself in the Edmonton spotlight a week ago after he slashed at Gretzky, said the Islanders' skaters had done as much as he had in shutting down the league's most recognized name.
"We certainly didn't underrate the type of game Edmonton would play," he said. "It was not going to be a scoring battle, with 6-5 or 8-7 scores. And the guys in front of me kept the game where it belonged, by keeping the Edmonton players away. We kept Gretzky off the scoreboard and we stopped a pretty good hockey team. It's true, I think I've been called upon (for more effort) more during this series than in any other playoff, but that made it even more satisfying."
Smith, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy for the league's most valuable player, was doubly smug after Tuesday's victory. He had been slashed by Glenn Anderson during the third period, and although unhurt, the goalie squirmed and writhed through an off-Broadway performance of an injury.
Later he admitted he put on the act because Gretzky had done the same when slashed by Smith a week ago. "Two can play at that game," Smith said.
Bourne said no one on his team had thought too hard about sweeping the Oilers, let alone shelving Gretzky. "In some ways, it surprises me that we could beat Edmonton the way we did," he said, his T-shirt streaked with sweat and champagne. "It surprises me in the same ways that we kept Gretzky without a single goal. But it doesn't surprise me that much."