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The Official Site of the New York Islanders

Maven's Memories: Easter Epic Pt. 2

Stan Fischler recounts three of the first four overtimes in the second part of his three-part series on the Easter Epic

by Stan Fischler StanFischler /

Read part one of Stan Fischler's three-part epic on the Isles-Capitals 1987 Easter Epic

(Editor's Note: The Islanders-Capitals. Easter Epic, April 18-19, 1987, was rated second greatest game ever by The Hockey News. As for the marathon, after three periods and no score -- plus one overtime period -- the game remained tied. Here's what happened next:)

Washington Capitals coach Bryan Murray believed that he had the Islanders on the ropes as the teams skated on to Capital Centre ice for the second sudden-death overtime period.

Although the scoreboard read 2-2 in the deciding game of this best-of-seven series, Murray hoped that -- with such Nassau aces as Brent Sutter, Denis Potvin and Mike Bossy out with injuries -- his speedsters could attack the Islanders flanks and score.

Isles coach Terry Simpson's third liners -- such as Alan Kerr up front and Gord Dineen on defense -- were hardly starry replacements for Bossy, Sutter or Potvin. 

Meanwhile, fatigue was becoming a major factor in terms of surviving the marathon. Between the first and second OT's the Isles sat exhausted in their dressing room with no power drinks nor energy bars. 

"Somebody ordered a pizza," said Dineen, "so we had a slice or two."

Kelly Hrudey, who eventually would make 73 saves on the night, was equal to the task in the second sudden-death period. He later confessed that he stayed with the same superstitions that got him to the top. Meanwhile, adrenaline ruled.

"I never got really tired, no matter how long the game went," the game goalie insisted. "But my feet hurt because I wore tight skates and by the second overtime, the feet really hurt."

Video: 1984 Round 1, Gm7: LaFontaine nets historic 4OT goal

The packed Capital Centre crowd must have figured that the game would end in the second overtime because the back-and-forth action was fierce. "The Law of Averages says it's gotta end before a third OT," said one press box wag.

"Actually, the second overtime was played faster than the second period of regulation," said Caps forward Lou Franceschetti. "We just wanted to get pucks to the net and some bodies in front. Then, see what happens."

What happened was that both Kelly Hrudey at one end and Bob Mason at the other seemed to have put up an invisible four-foot-by-six-foot "wall" along the goal line. 

In any event nobody scored in the second sudden-death period which led to some desperate measures by desperate players during the intermission riff.

Eureka! The Isles young forward Mikko Makela and teammate Pat LaFontaine collaborated on a brainstorm. They decided to ask the enemy training staff for oxygen. 

"We never thought they'd come through," Makela recalled, "but we actually got it from the Caps staff. Believe me, Washington management wasn't happy about that when they found out."

Despite the four minor penalties and one misconduct penalty doled out by referee Andy Van Hellemond in the second overtime period, the warriors stuck strictly to hockey. Van Hellemond, who skated non-stop, also was feeling beat.

So were his linesmen, John D'Amico and Ron Finn. When back-up referee Kerry Fraser walked into the officials' room after the second OT period, he was awed by their deteriorating physical state. 

Fraser: "They were dehydrated, hungry and exhausted. D'Amico was lying on the floor with his legs up on a bench because his feet hurt so bad. Finn was looking disheveled and frazzled."

Video: LaFontaine reminisces about 4OT Easter Epic game

But now there was a third extra session to play and it was the Islanders turn to step on the gas. No doubt rejuvenated by the oxygen, Mikko Makela had not one but two magnificent opportunities to seal the deal but Mason beat him twice.

During the third OT, Van Hellemond penalized no one and nobody complained although there were plenty of infractions that might have been whistled down in an ordinary contest.

"Van Hellemond decided to let the players decide the outcome," said Dineen, "so that's the way the third period went. The only thing he would've called was a two-hander on a breakaway."

Mason: "It was like a football game. Guys were getting tackled in front of the net."

Astonishlingly, the 18,130 rooters who jammed Capital Centre were rooted to their seats even after the clock struck midnight and keep moving toward daylight on Easter Sunday.

"I could sense more than anything that the fans were thoroughly enjoying the game," Hrudey told Barry Wilner of the Associated Press after the game. "Give them credit, they didn't leave despite the late hour.

"The way Mason and I were playing, I had the feeling that the game would go on all night."

It sure seemed that way when the third period ended and still no decision at hand. Members of the print media as well as the broadcasters were equally fatigued but all knew that the show must go on -- and it did.

In the Islanders room -- while teammates lay on their backs on the floor with their feet up on locker stalls -- Pat LaFontaine kept yelling: "WHO'S GOING TO BE THE HERO? WHO'S GOING TO BE THE HERO?"

Little did he know.


1. GOALTENDING: Both Kelly Hrudey and Bob Mason were inspired beyond belief and determined not to let any puck pass them that they could see. And they saw plenty!

2. OFFICIATING: Referee Andy Van Hellemond understood the game's intensity and his duty not to let either team have an unfair advantage due to a chintzy penalty. That's why no infractions were called in either the third or fourth OT.

3. GUTS: For players on the Capitals and the Islanders to play as long and hard as they did -- and so well under the circumstances -- required guts and more guts.

4. COACHES: Bryan Murray and Terry Simpson had to be at the very top of their respective games behind the bench. Without their sharp thinking, the marathon would have ended a lot sooner.

(Research acknowledgements to The Hockey News for its commemorative issue on Greatest Games as well as to Firefly Publishing for the excellent book, The Game I'll Never Forget, by Chris McDonell.)


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