NEW YORK -- Twenty-three years have passed since the New York Islanders shocked the hockey world by preventing the Pittsburgh Penguins of a Stanley Cup three-peat. Incredibly, the Islanders haven't won a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since.
Ray Ferraro, their hero of that postseason, will be in the building Sunday when the Islanders try to end the hex in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Florida Panthers at Barclays Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG+, SUN).
New York leads the best-of-7 series 3-2.
Ferraro scored back-to-back overtime goals in Games 3 and 4 against the Washington Capitals in the 1993 playoffs, then led the charge against the Penguins without New York's top center, Pierre Turgeon, the victim of a hit from Dale Hunter in Game 6 of the first round. Turgeon had 132 points that regular season. There was no way the Islanders could defeat the two-time champion Penguins, a roster that featured four Hall of Fame members -- soon to be five once 44-year-old Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr decides to stop torturing opponents.
Oh, and the Penguins were coached by Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history.
"People bring it up a lot," Ferraro told NHL.com. "I can't even really explain what happened in that series. Not only didn't we have Pierre, but we lost Travis Green in the series, and Travis had done a great job for us with Brad Dalgarno and Marty McInnis. They played against Mario Lemieux's line.
"Darius Kasparaitis was a wrecking ball in that series. The puck seemed to bounce for us, right from the very, very beginning of the series. I'm convinced if I was on that team I would have done the same thing too, but they looked past us. Before you know it, you're in a series where you can't make this other team go away."
It was supposed to be a mismatch before the series even started. But Islanders coach Al Arbour wasn't going let his players go down without a fight.
With Turgeon unable to play, Ferraro scored on a breakaway in Game 1, which the Islanders won 3-1.
"We were really angry. We felt like we'd been robbed a bit of our best player, which we were," Ferraro said. "Al said, 'Why can't we play with these guys for one shift? Why can't we play one game? That's all we have to worry about -- just look at the shift in front of you.' They wrote their lineup on the board, we wrote our lineup, and there's no chance. But we went in there and we won the first game, and we were like, 'Huh.' We knew they would play better the next game, and they did. But then we won again. And at that point that's when you know the series is the series. You can surprise a team once, but they couldn't with all their obvious skill make us go away.
"If you look at the highlights of Game 6, it is pandemonium. It's madness. There were goals all over the place. They couldn't rein the series in, and they were clearly better than us. It didn't matter."
Behind the goaltending of Glenn Healy, the Islanders won Game 7 in overtime 4-3 despite being outshot 45-20. New York blew a two-goal lead that night, May 14, 1993, but David Volek one-timed a pass from Ferraro past Penguins goalie Tom Barrasso for one of the more improbable series wins in League history.
The Islanders' fan base hasn't celebrated a series win since. But because of goalie Thomas Greiss, who made 47 saves in the 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 5 on Friday, the Islanders have a chance to end the madness Sunday.
"Even Game 7 against Pittsburgh, I never realized how lopsided the shots were because we were up 3-1," Ferraro said. "Someone sent me a video of it, and I was like, 'Oh, man.' [Healy] made 15 unbelievable saves. But at the time you're just playing and you don't know. I know these guys probably feel after the euphoria of the game wore off [Friday] night that they didn't play very well and their goalie saved them. So why can't it be his time?
"I think what we have seen is the League has got lots and lots and lots of good players. There are some old timers that think the League is not as good as it used to be; the problem is the League is better than it's ever been. When a guy like Thomas Greiss gets a chance and plays like this, it's not like a backup of 35 years ago. He's a quality guy. If they get through this, outside of Washington, everybody else is the same. And now Washington is fighting tooth and nail. Parity is a fact."
Ferraro knows all about the Islanders' fan base, having played for them from 1990-95. He remembers how loud Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was in the spring of '93, and is eager to feel the vibe in their new home Sunday.
"It's weird," Ferraro said. "I've heard a lot about the building. First of all, it's a beautiful building. But the goal should be make this quirkiness our quirkiness. You can't redesign that one end of the building, it's the way it is. So make the quirkiness your own quirkiness. This building is different than anybody else's. Try and make it uncomfortable."
One has to believe the crowd will do its best to do just that from the moment the gates open about 90 minutes before opening faceoff. They've waited long enough to see the Islanders in the second round.
"If I'm involved in the last of anything that was on the ice, it's probably too long," said Ferraro, who scored 13 goals in 18 games that postseason. "It is really crazy to think something hasn't gone right in all this time."