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New York Moment; The start of a dynasty

The New York Islanders had only been around for eight seasons when they found themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in their history.  They had gotten close a few times;  First, J.P. Parise guided them to the semi-finals after an improbable run through the red-hot New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.  Second, the Islanders had been within reach in the 1979 playoffs, losing to the New York Rangers in the semi-finals.  The Rangers would later go on to lose to the Montreal Canadians in the Stanley Cup Finals, a finals that the Islanders felt they could have easily won.

The Islanders went on a tear in the 1979-80 season.  They breezed through the playoffs until they faced the number one seed in the NHL playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Flyers had had success for years, winning back to back Stanley Cups in the mid 70’s.  Their core was still intact and it was a tough hill to climb for the Islanders.

The Islanders had something they hadn’t had in previous seasons;  An X-factor.  That X-factor was the very reliable center Butch Goring, who the Islanders traded for at the trade deadline and in return gave up fan favorite Billy Harris and Dave Lewis.  Goring sparked the Islanders after a mediocre start, and the rest is history.

The 1980 Stanley Cup Finals was a contentious one.  Dave Schultz and Clark Gillies were at each other’s throats through the entire season, and it was a back and forth series for each team.  The Islanders were up 3-2 after relinquishing a two game lead, and Game Six of the Finals was more of the same, with the Islanders blowing a two goal lead in the third period.

The Islanders had come so close many times and could taste the victory.  Their team was built for playoff success and playing in front of a raucous Nassau Coliseum crowd gave them an extra boost when the game went to overtime.  With 7:11 left in the first overtime period, John Tonelli found Bobby Nystrom streaking down the center of the ice and placed a picture perfect pass on his stick.

Nystrom got the puck on his tape and stuck one past young goaltender Pete Peeters.  The Islanders had finally won their first Stanley Cup after many years climbing to the top.  They celebrated in front of their home crowd and later went on to win three more Stanley Cups in the process.  Their streak of 19 consecutive playoff series wins is a record that may never be broken, as they made five straight Stanley Cup Finals.

The Nystrom goal is one that lives in infamy for Islander fans because it was the beginning of a true dynasty.  No team since the Islanders has even come close to winning four straight Stanley Cups.  It may be a sore spot for Ranger fans because they were most years the second best team in the league, but after so much hardship the Islanders eventually had to win one.  It all started with this.

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