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Wayne Gretzky leads Oilers to championship

On May 19, 1984, one dynasty ends and another begins when the Edmonton Oilers defeat the New York Islanders 5-2 to win the Stanley Cup. The Oilers had been swept by New York in the finals the year before, but the team’s talent had matured, and their offensive onslaught overwhelmed the four-time defending champs.

The now-legendary Wayne Gretzky led the 1983-84 Oilers with 87 goals and 205 points; this was the second time he had scored 200 points in a year, a feat no one else had yet accomplished. Gretzky’s main partner on the ice was center Mark Messier, who had 101 points in 1983-84. The team’s other stars included right wingers Jari Kurri and Glen Anderson, with 113 and 99 points, respectively, and the high-scoring defenseman Paul Coffey.

As a whole, the Oilers team was reminiscent of the Islanders teams that had dominated the NHL from 1980 to 1983: They were young, quick and brimming with passion. Meanwhile the Islanders, coming off four straight championships, 19 straight victorious playoff series and a brutal first-round series against the New York Rangers, were beginning to tire. They had played the equivalent of an entire extra regular season over their championship run, and simply count not keep up with the Oilers on the ice.

The star of Game 1 was Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr, who shut the Islanders out 1-0. In that game and throughout the series, Messier neutralized star Islanders center Bryan Trottier, keeping Trottier away from Gretzky. The Oilers then lost Game 2 6-2, but came back to dominate the series, outscoring the Isles 20-6. Going into the fifth game of the series, the Oilers led the series three games to one. In Game 5, Gretzky had two goals and an assist and the Oilers led 4-2 going into the final minutes. After a fifth goal, an empty-netter, sealed the deal, Edmonton fans rushed the ice, forcing a stoppage in play. After the game, Mark Messier, brilliant on both ends, was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs.

Gretzky, “The Great One,” later said of the win, “I’ve held women and babies and jewels and money, but nothing will ever feel as good as holding that cup.”

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