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Islanders-Capitals Playoff History

Easter Epic, Dale Hunter, the “first” last game at the Coliseum and much more!

Kelly Hrudey After The “Easter Epic’ Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

The Islanders will once again face the Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It will be the eighth time in the Islanders’ 26 playoff appearances that they will face Washington, which ties the Rangers for most times facing an opponent.

The Islanders are 5-2 all-time vs the Capitals. Here is a breakdown of each series.

1983 Patrick Division Semifinals - Islanders win series, 3-1

The Capitals took home-ice advantage after splitting the first two games at the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders responded by taking Games Three and Four at the Capital Centre by a combined score of 12-5. Mike Bossy’s Game Four hat trick helped send the Caps home. Bryan Trottier added four goals in the series.

For the Caps, Bobby Gould led the team with five goals. Gould, a four-time 20-goal scorer, was also a solid defensive player in his 11-year NHL career. But his two-way play is not what he is best remembered for. Four years later, Gould would fight Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux, sending the future Hall of Famer to an overnight hospital stay.

1984 Patrick Division Finals - Islanders win series, 4-1

The “Drive for Five” was almost in jeopardy as the Rangers took the four-time defending Cup champs to overtime in a decisive Game Five. Defenseman Ken Morrow’s goal helped the Isles advance to face the Capitals for the second-straight season.

Al Arbour’s team could only muster 18 shots in a 3-2 Game One loss. The Isles responded, as they always did during that era, rolled off four straight wins to win their 18th straight playoff series. Anders Kallur’s OT game-winner in Game Two highlighted the series. The Isles scored five goals in each of Games Three and Four.

1985 Patrick Division Semifinals - Islanders win series, 3-2

The wear and tear of competing in five-straight Stanley Cup certainly showed in the 1984-85 season. The Isles finished with their lowest point total (86) since their second season of existence (56 points in 1973-74). They finished 15 points behind the Capitals in the regular season and were clearly the underdogs when the series began. The Capitals held serve with two overtime wins at the Capital Centre. Game Two stood out as Kelly Hrudey, the heir apparent to Billy Smith, started his first-career playoff game, made 39 saves in the double-OT loss. Chances are pretty good that Hrudey will get his revenge on the Caps.

New York would take the next two at the Coliseum, including a comeback from two goals down in the third period in Game Four to force the all-or-nothing Game Five. The odds were against the Isles to compete the comeback as teams who would down 0-2 were 0-27. They held a narrow one-goal lead heading into the third period. Smith and the defense, led by old horses Denis Potvin and Ken Morrow held the Caps scoreless to complete to comeback, becoming the first in NHL history to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series.

1986 Patrick Division Semifinals - Capitals win series, 3-0

Unlike the previous season, New York could not overcome a 0-2 deficit. The Islanders never led in the series and was swept for the first time in their playoff history. If you had to rank the worst playoff series losses in franchise history this one is probably right behind the four-game sweep by the Rangers in 1994. If you can find a bright stop for the Isles in the series it was Mike Bossy scoring his 83rd playoff goal, passing Maurice Richard for most all-time.

1987 Patrick Division Semifinals - Islanders win series, 4-3

The NHL expanded the division semifinals to a best-of-seven series. The Isles still found a way to go two games down. New York battled back to win Games Five and Six to force a Game Seven. It was the only one in the first round that year. Bryan Trottier tied the game at two with just under five minutes left in regulation. Kelly Hrudey, who supplanted Billy Smith as the starting goalie, started all games that series. Hrudey came up big in Game Seven, stopping 73 of 75 shots. The Isles never led in that game or the series until Pat LaFontaine, who need edoxygen between the third and fourth overtime, scored at 8:47 of the fourth overtime or after 2am ET on Easter Sunday to win the series known as “Easter Epic.”

Some crazy stats regarding the “Easter Epic”

  • It is the longest Game 7 in Stanley Cup Playoff history.
  • There wasn’t a longer series-deciding playoff game until 2008 — by 16 seconds — but that was “only” a Game 6. Brendan Morrow netted the series-clinching goal for the Dallas Stars, sending the San Jose Sharks home
  • It was the first time in Stanley Cup Playoff history that the road team won Game 7 that needed more than one overtime period
  • It was the first Game 7 since 1968 to need more than one overtime period
  • Neither team had a power play for the last 89 minutes 42 seconds
  • Bobby Gould had 12 shots and did not score

1993 Patrick Division Semifinals - Islanders win series, 4-2

After facing each other in five straight playoffs, the team waited six years for their next playoff matchup. The Islanders missed the playoffs three of the last four seasons and clinched their matchup with the Capitals on the final day of the regular season. After losing Game One, the Islanders won the next three games, all in OT to take a 3-1 series lead. Ray Ferraro would score the winners in Games Three and Four. Game Five would go in the Caps favor and would feature two hat tricks, one by Caps defenseman Al Iafrate, who scored 25 in the regular season, and Ferraro would continue his hot streak, scoring all four Isles goals in a 6-4 loss.

The series would return to the Coliseum for Game Six. Ironically, Dale Hunter would open up the scoring with his seventh goal of the series. The Isles would respond by scoring the next four goals, including one each by the “Kid Line” members Brad Dalgarno and Travis Green. The Capitals would get one back, cutting the Isles lead to two. What would happen next would wind up being the darkest day of the Capitals-Islanders rivalry. Pierre Turgeon, who would have one of the greatest season in Isles history, would take advantage of a Hunter turnover and put one past Don Beaupre to seal the series win for the Islanders. While celebrating the goal, Hunter cowardly hit that’s year’s Lady Byng winner into the boards. Turgeon would miss the next six games with a separated shoulder. Hunter would be suspended the first 21 games of the 1993-94 season by newly named NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The suspension at that time was the longest in league history for an on-ice infraction.

2015 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals - Capitals win series, 4-3

The Islanders and Capitals finished the regular season tied with 101 points, which was the most New York had since the 1983-84 season. The Islanders had a chance for home ice advantage for the first time since 1988 but squandered a late lead to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first final regular season game at the Coliseum. The Isles would lose in a shootout. The Caps won the second tiebreaker which was head-to-head points (6 to 5).

The Isles quickly took home ice back from the Caps, thanks to Brock Nelson’s two goals in a 4-1 Game One win. Luck appeared to be in the Islanders corner as Braden Holtby, who played in 73 regular season games, did not start Game Two due to an illness. Then Caps head coach Barry Trotz said Holtby was under the weather since Game One.

Philipp Grubauer, who played all of one game in the regular season for the Caps, got the start. The Islanders could not take advantage and blew a third-period lead, losing Game Two, 4-3. Future Islander Jason Chimera would net the go-ahead goal.

The series would shift to the raucous Coliseum. Prior to Game Three, Alex Ovechkin was asked about the what he expected from the Coliseum crowd.

Holtby returned and made 40 saves. The game went to overtime tied at one. It did not take the Islanders long to take a 2-1 series lead as John Tavares scored the game winner just 15 seconds in OT. The second-quickest ever Islanders playoff OT goal (J.P. Parise in 1975). It was the Isles’ first playoff OT win in 22 years (the David Volek game) and their first 2-1 postseason series lead in 22 years.

Game Four would feature another 2-1 overtime win. This one would go in the visiting team’s favor as Nicklas Backstrom goal would even the series at two. The game would be overshadowed by Tom Wilson’s vicious hit on Lubomir Visnovsky. Wilson used his five-inch height advantage in leveling Visnovsky, who would missed the rest of the series.

Trotz, who obviously was protecting his player, felt the hit was clean.

Wilson received a two-minute minor and no other discipline for the hit. The Isles fan hatred for Wilson was born.

The pivotal Game Five headed back to the Verizon Center. Josh Bailey got the Islanders on the board early in the first period with his second of the series. Unfortunately for New York, that’s all the scoring they would get. The Caps scored the next five goals and chased Jaroslav Halak in the third period. The game featured Griffin Reinhart’s only playoff game with the team. He was a minus two.

The Islanders returned to the Coliseum in a win-or-go-home scenario. Nikolay Kulemin go-ahead goal midway through the third, followed by Cal Clutterbuck’s empty-net evened the series at three. The game turned out to be the last game at the Coliseum for a couple of seasons.

The Islanders came out extremely flat in Game Seven, registering only 11 shots. Even with the ineptitude, New York only trailed 1-0 headed into the third period. Frans Nielsen tied the game early in the third. Unfortunately, that was all the Isles would get. Rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov netted the go-ahead goal with seven and a half minutes left in regulation. It was fitting that New York, who went scoreless on 13 power-play opportunities heading into the game had one last power play chance with three minutes left in the third. Islanders head coach Jack Capuano failed to pull Halak to give his team a 6-on-4 advantage. 0-13 became 0-14. Capuano inexplicably scratched forward Anders Lee, who was second on the team with 25 goals for Games 6 and 7 in favor of Colin McDonald.

This matchup, beginning on Wednesday, will be the most unique of them all. If the Caps want to win the Stanley Cup they’ll have to go through the f#$@#$@# Island, I mean the bubble that is Toronto.