Almost an hour after the New York Islanders eliminated the Washington Capitals with a 5-3 win in the sixth game of their opening-round NHL playoff series, all was nearly quiet in the Isles' blue-and-orange bunker beneath Nassau Coliseum. The last notebook had been pocketed. The last camera crew had left. The last tape recorder was nearly out of juice. Still, Ray Ferraro kept on talking. It seems that even when the game ends in regulation, Ferraro goes into overtime.
"What a week," said the 28-year-old center, who led the Isles with eight goals in the series, including two in sudden death. "I dreamed stuff like this when I was a kid. And for it to actually happen, wow! You gotta be kidding me. Another overtime? Another goal? How? Why? I am absolutely at a loss to explain."
Not exactly. Ferraro thanks his unlucky stars for the broken right ankle that kept him out of 36 games; he didn't return until mid-March. "I feel fresh," he says.
Ferraro had scored in the Islanders' last three regular-season games, then got his team's only goal in Game 1 against the Caps, a 3-1 loss. In Game 2, though New York's Brian Mullen got credit for the winning goal, it was Ferraro's incessant stickwork that appeared to pop the puck out of Washington goalie Rick Tabaracci's glove and into the net at the 14:50 mark of the second overtime. In Game 3 and Game 4, Ferraro scored in OT and double OT, respectively. Then he carried the Isles in Game 5, scoring all four of New York's goals in a 6-4 loss.
A two-time 40-goal man, Ferraro is not a complete unknown. That he should explode during the playoffs, though, is something of a shock. Just two months ago he was a guest analyst during radio broadcasts of Islander games. One of the regular commentators is Bob Nystrom, the Isles' last Mr. Clutch, who scored the overtime goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in 1980 that clinched the first of the franchise's four straight Stanley Cups. Nystrom jokingly claims responsibility for his onetime colleague's current hot streak. "I cooked his brain with the headphones," Nystrom says.
Radio Ray, in turn, microwaved the Caps. He was still sizzling on Sunday in Pittsburgh, scoring on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period against the heavily favored Penguins and giving the Isles a lead they never relinquished in Game 1 of the Patrick Division finals.
As a longtime Boston Red Sox fan, Ferraro knows all about coming up short in the postseason. He is probably the only native of Trail, B.C., who has nightmares about the ball squirting through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 of the '86 World Series. His son's middle name is James, after moody ex-Red Sox slugger Jim Rice. Ferraro was delighted to begin his NHL career in 1984 in Hartford, an easy drive from Fenway Park.
Ferraro doesn't get to Boston as often as he did before the Whalers traded him to the Islanders in 1990, but he tries to make at least one pilgrimage to Fenway each spring. If by some miracle the Isles knock off the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins and play on, this year's trip might have to be postponed. That would be O.K. with Ferraro. As he well knows, the Red Sox can always wait till next year.
MIKE DIGIROLAMO/BENNETT STUDIOS
The Islanders' center has found the net all too often to please the Capitals and the Penguins.