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Monday, November 07, 2011

Isles 40 in 40 -- #35

Isles 40 in 40 -- #35

In honor of the Isles 40th anniversary year, I've put together a list of the Top 40 moments in club history.  I'll go through them throughout the season, bit by bit.
January 6,1981-- With Bossy Chasing 50, Tonelli Lights Up the Leafs

January 1981 was a memorable month in Islander history.  Mike Bossy's chase of 50 goals in 50 games was a huge story not only in New York but all through Canada and the rest of the hockey world.

When the Toronto Maple Leafs reached the Coliseum on January 6th, Bossy had recorded 40 goals in the Isles' first 41 games so he needed ten goals over the next nine to reach 50 in 50.

If the Leafs' goal that night was to keep Bossy off the scoreboard, it worked.  However, John Tonelli would have a most memorable night...and Mike Bossy would have a night unmatched in Islander history.

A Czech netminder named Jiri Crha was the Leafs' #1 goalie that season and Crha was in nets at the Coliseum that night as Tonelli and Bryan Trottier scored first period goals to give the Isles a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.  Tonelli scored his second goal 1:43 into the second period and it looked like the Isles would carry the 3-0 lead into the 2nd intermission but Rick Vaive scored with 1 second to play to break Chico Resch's shutout.

1:53 into the third Tonelli completed his first professional hat trick by scoring the opening goal of the period, just like he had done in the first two.  Toronto veteran Ron Ellis scored the 332nd (and final goal) of his career midway through the third and Vaive scored 6 minutes later to make it a one-goal game with 3:54 to play.

Last than a minute later, Tonelli tallied his 4th goal of the night and with Crha on the bench in the final minute, (the original) JT hit the empty net for his 5th goal.

With that goal, Tonelli tied Bryan Trottier's club record of 5 goals in a game, set in

Moment #38 -- December 23, 1978.  (Trottier would score five goals again in 1982), increasing his goal total on the season from 9 to 14 in just one night.   Trottier would end up with a 3-point night (1 goal, 2 assists).

As for Bossy, who now stood at 40 in 42, he assisted on all six Islander goals, setting an Islander club record that stands today.  Only Billy Taylor of Detroit (in 1947) and Wayne Gretzky (in 1980, and later in 1985 and 1986) ever had a seven assist game.

In the history of the NHL, a player has recorded six assists or more only 28 times (it hasn't been done since 1997).  When you look back at the Islander dynasty, perhaps it shouldn't surprise you that the goal scorer (Bossy) holds the assists record, and the three times an Islander scored five goals in a game, it wasn't Mike Bossy.

Tonelli would go on to score three of the most important goals in the Dynasty: the goal that gave the Isles their 15th straight win, and the tying and winning goals against Pittsburgh in game 5.  Not surprisingly, those moments will be spotlighted later in this series.  But Moment #35 is Tonelli's 5 goal, Bossy's 6 assist game.

Postscript:  As Bossy neared 50 in 50, teams almost seemed to be more concerned with holding Bossy off the board than winning the game themselves.  Games 48 and 49 were both games in which Bossy was held without a goal, but the Islanders would win by shutout.

Postscript 2: Crha would face the Islanders in all three games of the first round series between the teams, which would be swept by the Isles.  He would never play in North America again.

The List to Date:
#35 -- January 6,1981 -- With Bossy Chasing 50, Tonelli Lights Up the Leafs
#36 -- January 18, 1973 -- Expansion Isles Beat the Champs
#37 -- November 28, 1979 -- Billy Smith is credited with a goal
#38 -- December 23, 1978 -- Trottier re-writes the record book
#39 -- February 11, 2011 -- Isles pound Pens 9-3
#40 -- Summer 2001 -- Isles hire Laviolette, trade for Peca and Yashin, claim Osgood.
March 16, 2010 -- Tavares' 5-point game.
February 13, 2011 -- Grab-Trick. 
March 31, 1990 -- Uwe, Uwe. 

Like any of these lists, my #2 may be your #20...
Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since 1982. Visit my blog: NYISkinny.com and follow me on Twitter @ehornick

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