Current Islanders revive memories of great run by 1992-93 team
The Islanders’ ongoing Stanley Cup playoff run, now deep into the second round, certainly has been a welcome turn of events for the team and its fans.
But there is another team — and an earlier generation of fans — for which the 3-1 victory over the Flyers in Game 3 on Saturday was a nostalgic boon: the 1992-93 Islanders.
That is because by taking a 2-1 series lead entering Game 4 on Sunday night, the current Islanders inadvertently revived the legacy of a team whose run to the conference final remains seared in collective memory.
As many noted after Game 3, the 2019-20 Islanders became the franchise’s first team in 27 years to win two games in a second-round series, meaning this team is closer to a Cup than any since then.
Those ’93 Islanders deserve some love. They are the only ones to win two playoff series since 1984, in the dying days of the Cup dynasty, when the Islanders lost to the Oilers in the Final.
Their regular season under Al Arbour — in his next-to-last season as coach — was nothing special. They finished third in the Patrick Division with 87 points, 32 behind the powerful, two-time defending Cup champion Penguins.
Pierre Turgeon led them in goals (58), assists (74) and points (132), and there were three other 30-goal scorers: Steve Thomas, Derek King and Benoit Hogue. Glenn Healy was the primary goaltender.
Then things got interesting in the playoffs, including a sudden streak from Ray Ferraro, who ended the postseason with 13 goals and seven assists.
He twice scored in overtime in the first round against the Capitals and also had a four-goal game in a loss.
But his biggest moment of those playoffs came in Game 7 of the second round against the Penguins at the Igloo in Pittsburgh, when he found David Volek in the right faceoff circle for the series-winner at 5:16 of overtime.
The Penguins had trailed 3-1 late in the third period before scoring twice, including once in the final minute, to tie it. But Volek’s score past goaltender Tom Barrasso ousted the star-studded Penguins and stunned the league.
The Islanders scored four shorthanded goals in the series, two by Tom Fitzgerald.
They went on to lose in five games to the eventual Cup champion Canadiens in the conference final — losing in overtime in Games 2 and 3 — a point to which the franchise has not returned since.
But as happy as all that was, many fans have a sour memory from those playoffs just as vivid as Volek’s goal.
In the series-clinching 5-3 victory over the Capitals in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum, Turgeon scored to make it 5-1 in the third period.
As he raised his right arm in celebration, the Caps’ Dale Hunter hit him from behind, causing Turgeon to hit the boards awkwardly, separating his shoulder and knocking him out of the Pittsburgh series.
Hunter would be suspended for 21 games to start the next season. Turgeon did return for the Montreal series and had a long NHL career that lasted through 2007, but he never again scored 40 goals or 100 points.
There is an asterisk in order here, because the 2019-20 Islanders already have won two postseason series, if you include their 3-1 series victory over the Panthers in the qualifying round.
But that technically does not count as part of the traditional “playoffs,” so let’s give the Islanders informal credit for that one, then focus on the bigger picture.
As any coach or player will tell you, the goal is the Cup, not the milestones along the way. That is why those ’93 Islanders are respected rather than revered in franchise lore. Their retired numbers do not hang from the rafters.
But it sure was fun while it lasted, and they can thank the current Islanders for reminding everyone what that long-ago fuss was all about.