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Friday, January 17, 2014

January 18th will always be a special day in Islander history

Saturday is the 41st anniversary of one of the most famous wins in Islander history -- the 9-7 victory over the then-Stanley Cup champion Bruins at Boston Garden.

The win broke a 12-game losing streak, in which the Isles scored only 13 goals and also broke a 20-game road winless streak (0-19-1, including 13 straight losses).

A couple of years ago I wrote a longer piece on that game, repeated below:

January 18, 1973-- Expansion Isles Beat the Champs

The 1972-73 Islanders won only two games on the road all season.  In the first one, on November 1, 1972, Germain Gagnon recorded the first hat trick in franchise history as the Islanders defeated the California Golden Seals 6-2.

Their other road win came some 79 days later.

The Bruins came into Boston Garden that night as the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, having won as many games in the previous season's final (against the Rangers) as the Islanders had won in their history: 4.

The Islanders had lost 12 straight (they would eventually finish the season with 12 wins total) and were 0-19-1 in their prior 20 games.

On paper, the game should never have been played.  Of course, they are not played on paper.

With the expansion Islanders in town, the Bruins started John Adams (yes that John Adams) in goal.  The roookie netminder would finish the season with a 9-3-1 record.  His night however would be finished in just 20 minutes as the Islanders jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first 17:46, bookended by a pair of goals by Don Blackburn.  Lorne Henning, Billy Harris and Ed Westfall also tallied for the Isles, who allowed a late goal by John Bucyk to make it 5-1 after 1.

Westfall tallied again early in the second period to make it 6-1, but by midway through the period the B's had cut the margin to 6-4.  Bucyk had two of those three goals, giving him a hat trick-- he would later add a 4th goal.

Brian Lefley scored with 4 1/2 minutes left in the 2nd to take a bit of the pressure and make it 7-4, but Wayne Cashman and Terry O'Reilly responded early in the 3rd.  After Tom Miller and Johnny Bucyk traded goals to make it 8-7, the Bruins had a chance to tie late in the third.  Year later, Islander goaltender Bill Smith described to Sports Illustrated what happened next:  "Finally, when it was 8-7, Wayne Cashman took a shot from the blue line that hit me in the head. Harris picked the puck up and went down and scored, or we sure as hell would have blown it.""

The headlines across the continent told the story:  "Islanders Catch Bruins Napping", said the Pittsburgh Press, "Bruins Mauled by Islanders" said the Regina (SK) Leader Post, "Lowly Islanders Stun Champion Bruins" said the LA Times, "Good Grief" said the Boston Globe.

The New York Times relied on a wire service story, adding a very Times-like "Bruins are Upset by Islanders, 9-7" headline.  However, the next day veteran scribe Gerry Eskensazi penned a piece that was titled "And if They Last 1,000 Years, It Was Islanders' Finest Hour".

Phil Goyette earned the victory behind the bench for the Isles; he was relieved of his duties 11 days later with a record of 6-40-4.

The Isles and Bruins have played 148 regular season games since then, and the Isles have never scored nine goals against Boston again.  The Isles have played over 1,600 road games since, and have scored more than 9 goals only twice (in Atlanta in 1978 and in Toronto in 1984).

And oh yes, it made a young boy  wake up very happy the following morning -- his 9th birthday.

Perhaps it was Islander radio announcer Al Albert (who the Times referred to as Alan) said it best: "Expansion has diluted the Bruins."

The good vibes on January 18th have continued throughout Islander history.  The Isles are 9-1 on this date, and have outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 54-20.
Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since January 21, 1982. Visit my blog: NYISkinny.com and follow me on Twitter @ehornick

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