They had no chance. Not without their best player, who was injured by a vicious cheapshot that got its perpetrator suspended for 20 games. Not against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who had won 14 straight playoff games across two seasons. Not against the league’s most stacked offensive team since the Gretzky era Oilers.
Facing the Penguins in the second round of the 1993 playoffs, the Islanders were expected to be a speed bump on the way to a third consecutive Cup for Pittsburgh. But by never quitting, even when down in the series, the scrappy Islanders staged an upset for the ages.
Down three games to two, the Islanders won a wild Game 6 on Long Island by the score of 7-5 on May 12, 1993. That set up Game 7 in Pittsburgh two nights later, in which they jumped out to a 3-1 lead halfway through. But they couldn’t hold it and the game went to overtime.
That’s when the legend of David Volek was born. The Czech winger went from healthy scratch to hero, scoring his second goal of the game in overtime to end the Penguins’ season on May 14, 1993.
It was kind of a big deal.
So deep in coach Al Arbour’s doghouse that he didn’t even dress for the first-round playoffs, Volek outscored Mario Lemieux 2-0 in the biggest game of the season - and the biggest game of Volek’s life. Because he did, the Islanders are going to the Wales Conference finals against Montreal beginning Sunday.
The Penguins? They’ll go down in the history books not as a dynasty, but a disappointment.
Geez Louise! But wait, there’s more:
“All day long, people were stopping us on the streets and telling us to get the golf clubs out, we were done,” the Islanders Ray Ferraro said. “There were numerous times in this series when people said it was over. We were shown no respect, we were told all along that we should just be happy to be here. That was a good motivator for us.”
Volek. Even now, it means a guy who came from nowhere to score a goal that mattered. But that barely covers the scope of his story from that season.
Volek, benched for most of the 1992-93 season by Islanders Coach Al Arbour and requesting a trade out of New York, snapped Ray Ferraro's drop pass into the right circle under Barrasso's left pad.
“(Volek's) been playing well so I've kept on playing him,” said Arbour. “He had a tough year in many ways. I don't think he's my best friend,” joked Arbour, who has been critical of Volek's offensive style in the past.
The great thing about the NHL playoffs is that there’s a chance for a new David Volek every year. Upsets happen every season in every sport. But the totality of what the 1993 Islanders accomplished is something we may never see completely ever again.
"When someone tells you that you can't do something and you do it, that makes it all the better, and it doesn't get much better than this," Islander goaltender Glenn Healy said.