Thursday, April 18, 2013
On this date in 1987, the Washington Capitals hosted the New York Islanders in Game 7 of their opening round playoff series.
The game would not end until the early hours of the following day.
The series had opened in Washington with a split, with the Capitals taking Game 1 by a score of 4-3 and the Islanders evening the series by taking Game 2 by a 3-1 margin. Back on Long Island the Capitals took two, with a Game 3 shutout 2-0 and a 4-1 win in Game 4 to take a commanding 3-1 edge in games. The Islanders stayed alive with a 4-2 win back in Washington and forced a deciding Game 7 with a 5-4 win at home.
With viewers across North America tuned in on ESPN and the CBC, the puck dropped at 7:40 PM and the Capitals dominated early but it took nearly the entire period for Mike Gartner to eventually put Washington ahead 1-0 with 48 seconds left in the first.
Pat Flatley evened the score at 11:35 of the middle period before Grant Martin restored Washington's one goal lead at 18:45 by beating the Islanders goaltender Kelly Hrudey. The period ended at 2-1 for Washington, which held a 25-10 margin in shots.
There was no scoring in the third period until Bryan Trottier put a backhander between Captials goalie Bob Mason's legs at 14:37 to tie the game at 2-2. For the remainder of regulation both teams sought an advantage without success, and regulation came to a close without a winner.
In the first twenty minute overtime, the teams both recorded 11 shots on goal and the Capitals Greg Smith nearly won it with a slap shot that beat Hrudey but clanged off the right post with seconds remaining.
Washington did their best to end it in the second overtime by outshooting the Islanders 17-9, but could not solve Hrudey. Perhaps the best chance to end the game in the second OT was when Islander Randy Wood's shot that hit the pipe.
The game then advanced to a third overtime, the first in 16 years, and fatigue really began to take hold as Easter Sunday began. The Islanders got the better of the Capitals during the period, holding an 11-10 edge in shots on goal. Mason denied the Islanders better scoring chances and the second sixty minutes closed scoreless.
For the first time since 1951, a game would enter the fourth overtime and people really started to get punchy, ESPN's Bill Clement in particular, having taken off his shirt and converted his tie into a headband before doing some voice impressions prior to the start of the fourth overtime.
The game started to climb the list of the longest games in NHL history, entering the top five of all time after a 1:10 of play in the fourth overtime period. The Islanders moved ahead in shots four to one when Ken Leiter of the Islanders pinched in the keep the puck in the Washington end. He circled behind the goal and passed to Gord Dineen, whose shot was blocked in front of Mason. The puck deflected back to Pat LaFontaine, who fired a slapshot passed a screened Mason to finally end the game after 128:47 of play, winning not only the game, but eliminating the Capitals as the Islanders won the series 4 games to 3, despite the fact that the Capitals had not trailed in the series or the game until LaFontaine's goal.
LaFontaine's goal came at 1:58 AM, 6 hours and 18 minutes after the opening faceoff. Hrudey was credited with 73 saves, an NHL playoff record, while Mason's total was 54 in the game that would become known as the "Easter Epic".
Today's featured jersey is a 1986-87 New York Islanders Pat LaFontaine jersey. Throughout his career, LaFontaine's name was spelled with a variety of all capital letters of equal size and other times when the "A" was in a smaller size as shown here.
Later LaFontaine Islanders jerseys would have the more traditional all caps of the same size, so it is essential for you to do your research for the exact specification of lettering style used for the particular year of any LaFontaine Islanders jersey you may want to add to your collection.
The smaller "A" can be found on early Islanders, 1996 USA and black Sabres jerseys.
Today's video section features highlights of the Easter Epic, which faced off on this date in 1987. First, from the CBC, featuring a more subdued Don Cherry than the much more voluminous one he has evolved into.
Next, Bill Clement loses his mind on national TV prior to the fourth overtime.
Finally, LaFontaine reflects on his memories of the game and the playoffs in general.