April 17, 1980 was a turning point in the Islanders history.
On that night the Nassaumen firmly -- and irrevocably -- placed themselves on The Trail To The Stanley Cup.
This was the quarter-final round of the playoffs and, as never before, the team's mettle would be tested on Boston Garden ice.
Already, coach Al Arbour's stickhandlers had vanquished the Los Angeles Kings, three games to one in the Preliminary Round.
Next up were the Big, Bad Boston Bruins in a best-of-seven series and, already, the Isles were up by a game thanks to Clark Gillies overtime winner on April 16th.
Now the question was whether the boys from Uniondale could do the unexpected -- make it two in a row -- and head back to the Coliseum to further build on the momentum.
The Bruins had other ideas; especially rugged Terry O'Reilly, poster boy for the bopping Beantowners. He had singled out Gillies for punishment in Game One and did an encore in the second imbroglio. Every time the behemoths clashed, which was often, Gillies won.
"We went into Boston with the sole intention of getting one win," Gillies remembered. "A second win would be -- wow!"
Game Two was another tug-of-war; tied 4-4 at the end of regulation time. All signs indicated another quick overtime and it was, thanks to the usually reliable O'Reilly.
Whether it was because of the poundings administered by Gillies or some other factor, but in less than a minute-and-a-half of the sudden-death session, O'Reilly turned the goat of this pivotal encounter.
Under pressure, Terry dispatched a mediocre clearing pass which was intercepted by the Isles vigilant Bob Bourne.
The Saskatchewan sniper wasted no time steaming a shot past goalie Gerry Cheevers. Lo and behold, the Islanders jetted back to Nassau leading the series, two games to none.
"We were learning what it was like to win in the playoffs." said Mike Bossy. "We were forming a bond that's so important in the playoffs. I sensed the guys coming together."
Confidence had replaced doubt.
"We were a hungry team," said rookie Anders Kallur.
The home fans were beginning to sense that this was, in fact, a different Islanders team than they previously had witnessed in the 1978 and 1979 post-season. Roaring its approval, the capacity crowd drowned out Arbour's commands during the 5-3 triumph in Game Three.
Arbour: "Boston challenged us physically and we met the challenge. To me it was noticeable how much they learned from adversity and tough games. They grew up in the Bruins series and what surprised me is that it happened so fast."
The Bruins averted a sweep in Game Four at the Coliseum when the ever-valiant O'Reilly redeemed himself.
With the home club about to seal the sweep with less than a half-minute to go in the third period, O'Reilly tied the game at 4-4. The Bruins workhorse then scored the winner late in the first extra session.
So, it was back to the ancient "Gahden," as it was called in Beantown with the Islanders in a position to sweep all three games on the road. A bonus for Arbour was the return of his super-sniper Bossy who had been sidelined with a fractured thumb.
Mike didn't score any goals in that 4-2 series-clinching victory on the night of April 22, 1980 but he picked up a pair of assists and felt in his bones that the bugaboos of past playoffs were gone with the Charles River winds.
"We sensed something special," Bossy concluded. "But we were determined not to look too far ahead!"
Mike was prescient, all right.
Just around the corner in the Islanders trail to the Stanley Cup were the Buffalo Sabres. It was yet another rough road to be travelled -- and conquered.
Video: Thank You Stan Fischler
LISTS: FOUR REASONS WHY THE BIG, BAD BRUINS WERE BEATEN
1. CLARK GILLIES STEPS UP THROUGHOUT: "Don't awaken the gentle giant" was the word around the NHL. Everyone knew that an aroused Jethro could be a Terminator.
O'Reilly aroused Clark and Gillies terminated O'Reily.
2. SMITTY BEATS CHEEVERS: The Bruins top goalie Gerry Cheevers was renowned for his clutch play that inspired Cups in 1970 and 1972. But in 1980 the Islanders Billy Smith out-clutched Cheesie.
3. SUPER-BOURNE: Although his critics labelled Bob Bourne, a solid second or third-liner,
the Uniondale speed merchant played like a superstar. His overtime goal in Game Two turned the series in the Isles favor for good.
4. BALANCE AND BOP: The additions of Butch Goring, Anders Kallur and Gord Lane made the Islanders stronger than ever. And with Lane's arrival, they finally out-toughed the Big, Bad Bruins!