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NHL Centennial

Islanders dynasty began 37 years ago

Bobby Nystrom's goal at 7:11 of overtime in Game 6 against Flyers gave New York first of four consecutive Stanley Cup championships

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

It's a scene that still thrills New York Islanders fans: forward Bobby Nystrom's backhand chip of a pass from linemate John Tonelli sailing past Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Pete Peeters, giving the former NHL laughingstocks the first of what became four consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

At 7:11 of overtime 37 years ago Wednesday, on May 24, 1980, a sweltering Saturday afternoon, the Stanley Cup took up residence on Long Island.

The Islanders entered Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final against the Flyers with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to win their first championship. It looked like a lock when they left the ice after the second period with a 4-2 lead, the fourth goal scored by Nystrom with 14 seconds remaining in the period.

Video: Memories: Nystrom pots OT Stanley Cup-clinching goal

But the heavily favored Flyers, who finished 25 points ahead of the Islanders during the regular season, wouldn't go quietly. Defenseman Bob Dailey and forward John Paddock scored in the first 6:02 of the third period to tie the game, and only Billy Smith's goaltending and a couple of fortunate bounces kept the score tied through the end of regulation.

The Islanders, one of the NHL's most successful teams in playoff overtime games, regrouped during the intermission.

"None of us wanted to go back to Philadelphia," forward Mike Bossy remembered years later. "We had to win at home."

The Flyers had the better of play through the early minutes of overtime. Center Bobby Clarke had a great chance but fired a shot over the top of the net, and center Ken Linseman took too long to shoot after being set up in front.

Perhaps fortunately for the Islanders, Nystrom had gotten some extra rest during the game by taking a fighting major and a misconduct about 10 minutes apart in the first period. When he, Tonelli and center Lorne Henning jumped onto the ice near the seven-minute mark of OT, Nystrom still had plenty of jump left despite the steamy conditions inside the Coliseum.

 

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"I was fairly refreshed from that and I had a lot of energy going into the overtime," he said in 2008. "It was kind of nice and relaxing sitting over there and watching the guys do their thing out there, and when I got the chance I was able to be in the right spot at the right time."

Henning picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fed Tonelli cutting through the middle with speed near the Flyers' blue line. Nystrom got a step on Dailey, creating a 2-on-1, and headed for the net. Tonelli's pass found Nystrom's stick and the rest was history.

"I just did the thing we had done in practice over and over and over again, go to the net," Nystrom said. "[Tonelli] feathered a nice pass to me and all I did was deflect it."

It was a sour ending for the Flyers, who finished first in the regular-season standings with 116 points and set an NHL record by going undefeated in 35 games (25 wins, 10 ties).

But for the Islanders, it was the start of a dynasty. And it was especially sweet for Nystrom, one of the survivors of New York's first NHL season in 1972-73, when it set NHL records for fewest wins (12) and points (30).

"It was amazing to see it go into the net," said Nystrom, whose No. 23 hangs from the rafters of Barclays Center. "It was a dream come true."

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