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Maven's Memories: Boss - and the Isles - Take Flight

Stan Fischler highlights Mike Bossy's iconic goal in the 1982 Stanley Cup Final

by Stan Fischler StanFischler / NewYorkIslanders.com

Like diamonds sparkling on a necklace, spectacular playoff goals have glistened throughout Islanders history.

They vary in size and substance from Bob Bourne's heart-throbbing end-to-end Coliseum rush against the Rangers in Game Five of the 1983 playoffs to Bryan Trottier's thread-the-needle sudden-death score -- also against the Blueshirts -- at Madison Square Garden.

But when it comes to a truly inimitable, gravity-defying work of playoff goal-scoring one -- and only one -- Isles Red-Lighter tops the list. 

The craftsman on the play -- not surprisingly -- was Mike Bossy and the victims included the Vancouver Canucks and goalie Richard Brodeur (No relation to Marty) at the Pacific Coliseum in the 1982 Cup Final.

Before getting to the rarified goal itself, it's worthwhile to consider that particular tournament's circumstances which led to the shot itself.

For starters, Al Arbour's crew had reached the Final round for the third straight year, aiming for dynasty status. The challenge was to become the first American-based team to win three consecutive Stanley Cups.

In 1981-82 the Islanders regular season first place overall finish (54-16-10) was the product of pure balance, thanks to the wisdom of general manager Bill Torrey and the manipulative guidance of coach Al Arbour.

The roster's balance started with goaltending (Bill Smith-Roland Melanson), to a robust defense led by multi-Norris Trophy-winner Denis Potvin; not to mention a squadron of goal-scorers.

Video: 1981-82 Isles sweep Canucks to win third straight Cup

With 64 goals in 80 games, Mike Bossy stood at the head of his class and, therefore, the prime target for de-fusion when the 1982 Final Round began in Uniondale with the upstart Vancouver Canucks at the opposite side of the ice.

On paper, the series figured to be a breeze for the Nassaumen. On the ice it was another story; and not such a pleasant one for Isles, Inc.

Like the 2019 Champion Blues, Vancouver entered the 1982 post-season as an underdog. But, like St.Louis, the Canucks grew stronger as playoff pressure mounted, beating Chicago four games to one in a stunning semi-final round.

Energizing Vancouver's ascent was Richard Broderu's stellar goaltending and a exceptionally physical -- some called it intimidating -- style epitomized by bristling forward Dave (Tiger) Williams.

In 1978 it was the very same Williams -- targeting Bossy -- who inspired the Maple Leafs to upset a superior Islanders team in a seven-game playoff.

As a Canuck, Tiger had been no less effective and Bossy was acutely aware of his upcoming foe.

"I knew Tiger would be trying to kill me again," Mike revealed, "and I was right. Tiger was Tiger. He taunted me, threw elbows at me, hooked, cross-checked, and punched me."

Having covered Game One of the Final on May 8, 1982, at the Coliseum, I vividly recall how threatening the Visitors could be. For one thing, they came out hitting and never stopped.

And for another, they looked like victors, nursing a 5-4 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the third period.

Bossy, who eluded Williams to score a first period goal, now was working on a line with Bryan Trottier but, once again, Arbour moved Clark Gillies off the unit, replacing him at left with with the indefatigable John Tonelli. 

Sure enough, JT's hustle enabled him to beat goalie Brodeur to a loose puck. Bossy, who had joined the attack, retrieved the rubber and scored, tying the game at 15:14. (You could almost feel the sigh of relief spreading through the arena.)

Overtime was like a pitcher's battle in the World Series. The first sudden death period featured clutch save after save alternately delivered by Brodeur and Smith. 

All signs indicated that the contest would move on to a second extra session when Vancouver's defenseman Harold Snepsts nursed the puck in his own zone with only ten seconds remaining in the first OT.

Video: Mike Bossy had record nine straight 50-goal seasons

Killing the clock seemed a simple matter but Snepsts went the complicated route.

Instead of corralling the rubber until the period-ending buzzer sounded, Snepsts inexplicably tried a perilous pass up the middle. Lurking along the route was Bossy, planted at the right face-off circle.

"Why Harold didn't just freeze the puck in the corner I'll never know," said Bossy. "I anticipated his move. I moved into the slot and the puck was there."

Next thing you knew, the rubber flew past Brodeur's glove side, clanged off the pipe and into the net -- with only one second left in the extra session.

With four well-chosen words in the Canucks dressing room, Brodeur summed up the reason for his club's unexpected demise: "Bossy is always there."

Crushed but still combative, the Canucks took a 3-2 lead into the third period of Game Two but the Isles retaliated with four in the final frame to skate off with a 6-4 triumph. 

But for sheer histrionics, the two wins merely set the stage for The-Bossy-Goal-Of-All-Stunning-Bossy-Goals.

The date was May 13, 1982 and the place, Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum. In his autobiography, "Boss -- The Mike Bossy Story," co-author Barry Meisel and Mike describe his moves in that 3-0 victory as his "most spectacular goal."

It evolved just past the middle of the second period. The Isles led 1-0 when Bossy took two shots from the slot at the inner rim of the left face-off circle.

"I was dumped by defenseman Lars Lindgren just as Brodeur kicked my second shot back to me. I was parallel to the ice, in the air, about to land on my stomach and face from the force of Lindgren's hit when the puck reached me."

The Law of Gravity was working against Mike doing anything much with the puck at that point. In this case, "In a situation like that," he explained, "you don't sense where your feet are. But as long as my arms were free, I could score.

Video: Bossy is second ever to score 50 goals in 50 games

"Instinctively, I cradled the puck with my blade and managed to flick a backhander toward the net. (Defenseman) Colin Campbell slid behind Brodeur to block it.

"But the puck flipped past Campbell, off the post and into the net. The only part of me touching the ice when I shot was the blade of my stick. I was amazed."

Winning Game Three in Vancouver virtually sealed the series -- and third Cup win -- which was wrapped up with a 3-1 decision in Game Four.

In Newsday, Pat Calabria wrote: "The dynasty is firmly stamped."

The Daily News listed the Champions' recipe: "The Islanders have speed, muscle, depth and character."

And the diamond that outshone them all also happened to be the Conn Smythe Trophy-winner -- Mike Bossy!


LISTS: THE FIVE KEY MEN BEHIND THE THREE-CUP DYNASTY:

1. MIKE BOSSY: He led the playoffs in scoring with a dozen goals, including the flying goal to end all flying goals.

2. BRYAN TROTTIER: Bossy's permanent center paced the post-season scorers with 29 points as well as leading with assists, 23.

3. DENIS POTVIN: The Hall of Fame defenseman delivered 16 assists; tops for all backliners as well as points for defender, 21.

4. BILL SMITH: While some critics might have questioned his unorthodox style, Smitty concluded the Cup run with a playoff high15 triumphs, four more than runner-up, Richard Brodeur.

5. AL ARBOUR: Radar now had guided his club through a dozen straight playoff series victories. His club emerged as the first American franchise to win three consecutive Cups!

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