The New York Islanders ran out of miracles tonight.
With goalie Pelle Lindbergh stopping 25 shots and his defense blocking almost that many, the Philadelphia Flyers shut out the Islanders, 1-0, and eliminated New York from the Stanley Cup chase.
It was the Islanders' earliest vacation since 1978 and Philadelphia, winning the series by 4-1, became the first team other than New York to take the Patrick Division title during the four years of the new format.
Ilkka Sinisalo scored the only goal of the game at 6:43 of the second period, netting a rebound of a shot by Doug Crossman after Peter Zezel, only marginally obstructed by New York defenseman Paul Boutilier, had skated through the crease to wipe out goaltender Kelly Hrudey.
The legality of the goal seemed more questionable than the one by Washington's Mike Gartner that sent Hrudey and Coach Al Arbour into a rage at Capital Centre two weeks ago. This time, however, the Islanders' complaints were perfunctory.
"They shot it at the net, I made the save, then I was lying down and Sinisalo put it in the net and our season was over," Hrudey said.
Asked if he felt he had been interfered with, Hrudey replied, "Did they call it? They haven't called it all year. Andy Van Hellemond is a great ref and I'm not blaming the reason we lost on him. It's not even controversial. They worked hard for that goal. Zezel did his job. That's what every forward should do, go for the net."
The Islanders did claim that the Flyers had been offsides before Zezel crossed the New York blueline, but they did not raise much of a fuss in that area, either.
"One of their players was straddling the line and we pushed him off, long before Zezel went over," said team captain Denis Potvin. "I reminded the linesman to watch the lines and not the play."
"The goal was offsides, but there were a lot of things that happened," Arbour said. "Breaks are part of the game and we didn't get them."
In the only postgame note of bitterness, Arbour added, "There are a lot of things I'd like to say, but I paid a few dollars in the first round ($7,500) and unless you guys want to make a contribution, I won't say it."
Zezel said he never doubted that the goal would count.
"(Coach) Mike Keenan said before the game that 'anytime you've got a chance, go to the net and cause a commotion,' " Zezel said. "I was just going to the net to try to screen Hrudey and cause a commotion. Boutilier had me and hooked me and I went into Hrudey."
Van Hellemond's ruling was that Zezel was propelled into Hrudey by Boutilier, but the defenseman in question was not even aware of the fuss.
"It turned into a three-on-two and I was in between, so I just tried to slow him down, but he was five or 10 feet ahead of me," Boutilier said. "I didn't push him in any direction, that's for sure. But it's one of those calls and what can you do? I don't know what happened around the net."
Although the Islanders had more than 33 minutes to get even, they never did. They were outshot, 11-6, in the third period and most of the last six minutes of the game was played in the New York end.
Philadelphia defensemen Brad Marsh and Mark Howe broke up play after play by the Islanders. They probably blocked more shots than Lindbergh in the third period and Howe made a sensational dive to sweep the puck off Bryan Trottier's stick as Trottier broke down the left wing with 10 minutes left.
"The defense played unbelievably," Lindbergh said. "They really only gave the Islanders three or four shots the entire night. There were no rebounds and no screens."
"Their defensemen were in the way a lot," said Islander Mike Bossy, who managed only one goal in the series. "A couple of shots I had in the third period, they got a leg on. You have to score goals to win. We were incapable of putting the puck in the net."
The closest New York came was during a second-period power play, when Potvin lined a shot off the crossbar after he slipped open in the slot.
"I'll certainly be seeing that one for a while," Potvin said. "I thought that one had it."
After the game, as the players exchanged handshakes, Potvin said he told Lindbergh to "Stay healthy."
"That's the most important thing for that club," Potvin said. "He played tonight like he did all season. He was challenging players and he looked confident that he'd stop every shot. The ones he didn't hit the crossbar."
Actually, the Flyers had more bad luck in that respect than New York, hitting five posts during the course of the game.
In addition, the Flyers had an apparent second-period goal nullified when Van Hellemond blew his whistle during a pileup in front, an instant before Marsh batted it past Hrudey.
The Flyers, who have won 20 straight home games and 23 of their last 25 overall, earned a week's rest before they resume their 10th anniversary Stanley Cup quest at either Montreal or Quebec.
"There's no question this is a big disappointment in a lot of ways," said Islanders General Manager Bill Torrey. "We had a poor season and a short playoff, and I'm not happy with it. There were some extenuating circumstances. The effort was there, but we came up short."
"I think more than anything, this is a new beginning," said Potvin. "We've been building up since 1973 for what we accomplished -- things no other team ever has -- and now it's time to start over again."