The New York Islanders fought defeat for 81 minutes and 23 seconds of hockey last night. Then, the game ended -- and they kept right on fighting.
Their coach, Al Arbour, shoved referee Don Koharski after a long discussion about Mike Gartner's goal that gave the Washington Capitals a 2-1, double-overtime victory at Capital Centre and a 2-0 advantage in their Stanley Cup playoff series.
Arbour then walked off the ice and kicked the door to the officials' dressing room, which they had just shut behind them. Arbour then went into the Islanders' dressing room, leaving General Manager Bill Torrey to pace and steam in front of reporters, to whom he refused to talk.
To say the Islanders thought the ending was controversial is putting things mildly. They believe Gartner's goal at 1:23 of the second overtime should have been disallowed for two reasons: the Capitals were offsides, and Washington's Greg Adams interfered with goalie Kelly Hrudey as Gartner slid the puck inside the post.
"We have plenty of gripes," said center Bryan Trottier. First on the list was the way the final rush began. Gartner crossed the blueline, the Islanders said, and then was poke-checked by defenseman Gord Dineen.
The puck went back across the blueline and was carried in by Bobby Carpenter, according to Trottier.
"I started yelling to the ref, 'It's offside, it's offside, it's offside,' " Trottier said. "It was definitely offsides, yet the Capitals just kept right on going. It's a smart play if they get away with it and a terrible call by the linesman."
As Gartner took Carpenter's pass and skated behind the goal, Dineen and Adams tangled in front of Hrudey.
"Adams was coming toward the net and I got a piece of him and pushed him toward the side," Dineen said. "Then he pushed Kelly out, and Gartner came in and put it off his pad to score. I pushed (Adams) off to the side and he came back and went into Kelly. The referee said I pushed him into Kelly. I don't think I did."
Said Hrudey, a rookie in his first playoff game, "You'd be a fool not to say that was interference."
Arbour also addressed the issue. Briefly. "I think if you look at the replay, you'll know where we stand with the league office," he said.
He entertained one lonely postgame question before he stormed out of the news conference.
A reporter asked about the goal, if Dineen hadn't forced Adams into Hrudey.
"Who forced who into the crease?" Arbour asked.
"Dineen," the reporter offered.
"Yeah, well you better get some glasses."
Arbour marched out of the interview area and into his dressing room, followed by reporters. There, he started eating peanuts and spitting out words.
"Talk to this wall, that's what you get (when you argue)," Arbour said, slamming his fist into the concrete block. "I've got nothing else to say. Don't wait for me."
Arbour received a game misconduct for shoving Koharski, said Frank Udvari, a supervisor of officials. The argument on the ice lasted several minutes as the Capitals celebrated nearby, with Arbour going nose-to-nose, a la Billy Martin, with Koharski before the push.
Capitals captain Rod Langway joined the discussions for a moment. "(The referee) said it was a good goal and I got out of there," he said. "They wanted to argue and there was no sense in me staying."
Sudden death is killing the Islanders, who lost Wednesday night, 4-3, in overtime. Last night, the controversial ending spoiled what they thought was a wonderful performance, especially in the third period, when Trottier's goal off Mike Bossy's rebound tied the game, 1-1.
"We played very well," said Bob Nystrom. "We had numerous opportunities, especially in overtime. I don't think we're going to fold our tents now."
Defiance meshed with anger in the Islanders' dressing room.
"In a sense, this may be the best situation," Hrudey said. "We haven't played mad all year. Well, now we're mad. We're fuming."