Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3, 1981: Scoring in bunches

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The scoring machine that was Mike Bossy was at its peak in the 1980-81 season. The main offensive weapon for the Islanders teams that won four straight Stanley Cups, Bossy had already made headlines earlier in the season by scoring 50 goals in 50 games. Now, as the Islanders were finishing up their schedule, he had another scoring record.

In compiling his impressive goals total, Bossy had wracked up eight hat tricks during the season, tying the NHL record. He had 15 games to try to get number nine.

Meanwhile, the Islanders had some issues of their own to work out. On February 25, they lost to Calgary 11-4, capping off a month in which they had games of 8 and 9 goals allowed, as well. This was certainly not the kind of performance expected of a two-time champion that had sites set on a third. It seemed as though the Islanders had corrected their problem, giving up only one goal each in a pair of wins following the Calgary disaster.

But then the Edmonton Oilers came to town on March 3, 1981. Behind the play of the great Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers were a scoring machine, and though they hadn't quite reached the heights they would in a few years, they were still a formidible opponent. They were perfectly capable of seeing just how much the Islanders' defense had improved.

The answer: not much. Edmonton poured in eight goals against the Islanders. Fortunately for New York, they had an answer, scoring eight goals of their own to lead to a rather ugly looking 8-8 tie. Among those eight goals were four goals by Bossy, giving him his NHL-record ninth hat trick of the season.

Most of Bossy's offensive exploits from the 1980-81 season were blown away by Gretzky the following season. Gretzky got to 50 goals in only 39 games, and ended up scoring an NHL-record 92 goals - scoring the record-breaking goal against Quebec on March 3, 1982. But that was in the future. In the present, the Oilers were done giving up bunches of goals. They lost only one more game in the regular season, then went 15-3 in the playoffs to win their third straight Stanley Cup.

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