By Zane Miller
This is a new series that I’m trying out, where I will cover a sporting event that I select at random for various Thursdays going forward. This article is a demo of what to expect from this type of article. With that said, enjoy the article!
On Monday, January 30th, 1978, the New York Islanders faced the Buffalo Sabres at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, New York, in the 431st NHL game played during the 1977-78 season.
The Islanders held a record of 29-10-8 going into the game, as they seemed poised to make the playoffs for the fourth straight time in just the franchise’s sixth season overall, joining the NHL as an expansion team for the 1972-73 season. Meanwhile, the Sabres were also having a strong showing, as they had earned a record of 25-10-12 and were also looking to make their fourth consecutive postseason appearance.
Starting in net for the Islanders would be future Hockey Hall of Famer Billy Smith, who had been with the team since its inaugural season. For 1977-78, Smith was splitting the goaltender position with teammate Glenn Resch, but had performed beautifully in his share of the starts, taking a 16-4-6 record going into the contest.
At goaltender for the Sabres, Don Edwards was the undisputed primary starter, as he made his 45th start of the season, and made sure that he would keep his place on top by compiling a 24-9-12 record.
The game got underway with an Islanders goal early on, as forward Mike Bossy nabbed his 34th goal of the season at the 4:41 mark of the first period to make it a 1-0 game. The lead would not last long, however, as Sabres forward Rene Robert tied the game up just over three minutes later, scoring a power play goal at 7:59.
As the momentum swung back in Buffalo’s favor, they would add another tally shortly after tying the game up, with forward Andre Savard finding the back of the net at the 9:30 mark, making it a 2-1 advantage for the Sabres, where the score would remain at the end of the first period.
Despite both offenses seeming to set a fast pace early on the contest, both teams would be stopped stone cold in the second period, with neither New York or Buffalo finding their way past Edwards and Smith respectively.
Nearing the midway point of the third period, the Sabres continued to hold onto their slim lead until pocketing a major insurance tally at the 8:20 mark, as Jerry Korab became the first defenseman to add a goal in the game. The score would later prove crucial as Bossy got his second goal of the game at 12:50, this time on the power play for his 35th of the season. However, it wouldn’t be enough as Buffalo held on for the 3-2 victory.
The Sabres improved to 26-10-12 with the win, while the Islanders dropped to 29-11-8. As Buffalo went on to go 44-19-17, and New York finishing at 48-17-15, both teams were easily able to qualify for the 1978 playoffs. The Islanders earned a first-round bye due to their strong regular season record, although they would lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the second round. Meanwhile, the Sabres won in their first round matchup against the New York Rangers two games to one, but also fell in the second round in a defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games.
Don Edwards would play in 72 games for the Sabres during the regular season, finishing at a record of 38-16-17, as Billy Smith appeared in 38 contests and claimed a 28-9-7 showing at season’s end. Smith would later win four Stanley Cups with the Islanders, and, in 1993, would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Link to stats database: https://www.nhl.com/gamecenter/nyi-vs-buf/1978/01/30/1977020433/recap/stats#game=1977020433,game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=stats