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On This Date in Sports May 17, 1983: Four on the Island

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The New York Islanders dynasty continues as they win their fourth straight Stanley Cup Championship by completing a four-game sweep of the Edmonton Oilers. The Islanders complete the sweep with a 4-2 win at the Nassau Coliseum. In the four games, Wayne Gretzky fails to score a goal as Goalie Billy Smith, who frustrated the Oilers, allowing just six goals in four games, wins the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP.

Born of expansion in 1972, the New York Islanders quickly became a playoff contender thanks to the work of General Manager Bill Torry, who was brilliant in finding talent in the draft. In just their eighth season in 1980, the Islanders won the Stanley Cup in six games, against the Philadelphia Flyers, on a goal by Bobby Nystrom. In 1981, the Islanders won a second straight Stanley Cup beating the Minnesota North Stars, while in 1982, they swept the Vancouver Canucks to become the first U.S.-based team to win three straight dances with Lord Stanley.

After three straight championships, the New York Islanders coached by Al Arbour coasted through much of the regular season, finishing second in the Patrick Division with a record of 42-26-12. Mike Bossy continued to be the catalyst for the Islanders, with his sixth straight 50-goal season, scoring 60 goals with 58 assists. Once the playoffs began, it was time for the Islanders, as they beat the Washington Capitals, who were making their first-ever playoff appearance 3-1 in a best-of-five series. In the Patrick Division Finals, the Islanders beat New York Rangers in six games. It marked their third straight season. The Islanders knocked their archrivals from the Big City out of the playoffs. In the Wales Conference Finals, the Islanders beat the Boston Bruins in six games, with Bossy scoring four goals in an 8-4 win in Game 6.

The Edmonton Oilers, coached by Glenn Sather, came into the season angry after their stunning opening-round loss to the Los Angeles Kings the year before. Once again, Wayne Gretzky set the ice on fire, scoring 71 goals while setting a new record with 125 assists to again with the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer as he won the Hart Trophy given to the NHL MVP for a fourth straight season. The Oilers won the Smythe Division with a record of 47-21-12. Learning their lessons from 1982, the Oilers swept the Winnipeg Jets in three straight. In the Smythe Division Finals, the Edmonton beat the Calgary Flames in five to win the battle of Alberta. The Oilers continued to dominate in the Campbell Conference Finals, sweeping the Chicago Black Hawks in four straight as Gretzky set a record for most assists in the postseason with 26.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum set the tone for the series, as the Islanders won 2-0. Duane Sutter scored a goal in the first period as Ken Morrow scored an empty-netter with 12 seconds left as Billy Smith made 35 saves. Smith quickly became Public Enemy #1 in Edmonton, as the Oilers took exception to his tactics of hitting players with his stick. He was later called Jack the Ripper after a slash injured Glenn Anderson. The Oilers scored first in Game 2 on a goal by David Semenko, but New York took control late in the first period on goals by Tomas Jonsson, Bobby Nystrom, and Mike Bossy. Jari Kurri scored in the second period, but the Islanders put the game away when Bob Bourne and Brent Sutter scored 38 seconds apart. Sutter added a second goal in the third period, as Anderson scored for Edmonton to make the final 6-3. As the series moved to the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, Billy Smith continued to live rent-free in the Oilers' head, as the Islanders continued to successfully hold the Wayne Gretzky in check. The score was tied at the end of two periods, as the Islanders got a first-period goal from Anders Kallur, while Kurri scored in the second for Edmonton. In the third period, the Islanders took over, scoring four times, with goals from Bob Bourne, Ken Morrow, and the Sutter Brothers to win 5-1. As the fans left Borrelli’s and went into the Nassau Coliseum, there was a celebratory air as fans were ready to celebrate a coronation of one of hockey’s greatest dynasties. Midway through the first period, the Islanders got their first goal when Bryan Trottier scored a power-play goal. Just 43 seconds later, John Tonelli made it 2-0, with Bossy making it 3-0 less than a minute later. The Oilers cut the deficit to 3-2 with goals by Kurri and Mark Messier. That would be as close as it would get as Ken Morrow clinched the series with an empty-net goal to make the final score 4-2.

The Islanders and Oilers would meet in the Stanley Cup Finals again in 1984; this time, the Oilers would win in five games ending the Islanders' hopes to equal the Montreal Canadiens record of five straight Stanley Cups. The Islanders dynasty would see them win a record 19 straight playoff series. The Oilers would become the NHL’s next dynasty winning four cups in six years. No team has won three straight since the Islanders dynasty ended.