Ranking Islanders’ most memorable Game 7s

All Games 7 are created equal. The winner advances or wins the championship. The loser is eliminated.

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All Games 7 are created equal. The winner advances or wins the championship. The loser is eliminated.

But these ultimate showdowns are not all equally as memorable. And probably not equally as significant despite the same reward for winning and the same consequence for losing. A Game 7 first-round defeat in a year with few expectations does not equate to losing the ultimate showdown as a championship favorite.

For instance, losing to Washington in the 2015 first round while amassing all of 11 shots was not tantamount to losing to Toronto in the 1978 quarterfinals on Lanny McDonald’s semi-breakaway in overtime a couple of weeks after the Islanders clinched their first division championship and expected to go to the finals.

Friday night’s Game 7 against Tampa Bay was for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. So this one will be remembered as significant. How memorable would depend on how the game unfolded.

Ranking the most memorable five Games 7 in Islanders history:

5. May 13, 1975, lost Game 7 of the semifinals, 4-1 to the Flyers at the Spectrum

After having become the second team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven by winning at Pittsburgh in Game 7 of their quarterfinal series, the Islanders were, incredibly, on the verge of doing it again.

For after the defending champion Flyers took a 3-0 lead, the Islanders roared back by winning the next three to set up a winner-take-all showdown at the Spectrum.

The Flyers had come upon a supposed good-luck charm in Kate Smith, whose rendition of “God Bless America” was played before the club’s most important games. For this game, Smith appeared live, accompanied by an organ on the ice.

While reveling in the standing ovation she received from the crowd, Smith was greeted, first by Islanders captain Eddie Westfall, who presented her with flowers, and then by the entire team. For a few moments, it seemed as if the Islanders had stolen the Flyers’ thunder.

But just 19 seconds into the match, Gary Dornhoefer blew one by Chico Resch and the Flyers rolled from there to prevent the Islanders from making history twice within a few weeks.

4. April 29, 1978, lost Game 7 of the quarterfinals, 2-1 to the Maple Leafs in overtime at the Coliseum

Lanny McDonald sunk the Isles with his Game 7 score in 1978.
Getty Images

This was the series in which the Islanders, who had entered as huge favorites and had won the first two games, were bullied by Toronto as designed by head coach Roger Neilson and ultimately went down on McDonald’s score at 4:13 of OT.

3. May 14, 1993, won Game 7 of the Patrick Division finals, defeating the Penguins 2-1 in overtime

This was as shocking a series result as it gets. The Penguins, two-time defending champions, had finished the season with an 18-game unbeaten streak (17-0-1), tying the final game of the year after establishing an NHL record with a 17-game winning streak. The record they broke had belonged to the Islanders, who had won 15 straight in 1981-82.

Moreover, the Islanders were without their best player, Pierre Turgeon, who had suffered a shoulder injury on the Game 6 clinching goal on a check from behind by his stalker, Dale Hunter. But that did not deter the Islanders, who had stayed alive with a 7-5 victory in Game 6 at the Coliseum.

The Islanders had a 3-1 lead midway through the third period in the match, in which Kevin Stevens had suffered an early first-period grievous facial injury. But Ron Francis scored at 16:13 before Rick Tocchet tied it at 19:00. The Penguins seemed primed.

David Volek ended the Penguins’ repeat hopes with his OT tally.
David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Until, that is, David Volek converted a two-on-one feed from Ray Ferraro to beat Tom Barrasso from the right dot at 5:16 of overtime to KO the champs and send his team to the conference finals, which they lost in five games to Montreal.

2. April 18-19, 1987, won Game 7 of the opening round, defeating the Capitals 3-2 at Landover, Md., when Pat LaFontaine beat Bob Mason from 45 feet at 8:47 of the fourth overtime

This obviously is the most historic of the Islanders’ Game 7s because it stands as the longest Game 7 in NHL playoff history.

In the game known as the Easter Epic because it ended at 1:58 a.m. on Easter, Kelly Hrudey made 73 saves while Mason made 54. The Islanders overcame a 3-1 series deficit to win it. The Islanders rallied in the next round from 3-1 down to force a Game 7 against the Flyers, but were routed 5-1.

1. April 26, 1975, won Game 7 of the quarterfinals against the Penguins in Pittsburgh, 1-0

This is the one that established the legend and put the Islanders on the national map. Westfall scored at 14:32 of the third period against Gary Inness, while Resch kissed the goalposts while recording the shutout as the Islanders recreated the history recorded by the Leafs 33 years earlier.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Larry Brooks

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