The NHL had done away with overtime for regular-season games in 1942-43 because of World War II travel restrictions. This year, it was restored in a limited way. If a game was tied after regulation time, teams played a single five-minute, sudden-death overtime period. If neither team scored, the game went into the books as a tie.
Wayne Gretzky led the league in scoring for the fourth year in a row and won his fifth consecutive Hart Trophy as most valuable player. For the third straight year, his Edmonton Oilers set a scoring record with 446 goals, 22 more than they had scored the previous season. With 119 points, Edmonton also had the league's best regular-season record.
The Boston Bruins led the Adams Division with 104 points and the New York Islanders also had 104 points to finish first in the Patrick Division, just 3 points ahead of the Washington Capitals. The Minnesota North Stars led the Norris Division with just 88 points, which would have placed them fifth in the Patrick Division.
The Montreal Canadiens finished a distant fourth in the Adams Division. Coach Jacques Lemaire decided to go with rookie Steve Penney in goal during the playoffs, although he'd played only four regular-season games. The Canadiens had done the same sort of thing wtih Ken Dryden in 1971, when it paid off in a Stanley Cup championship. Penney didn't take them that far, but he was instrumental in upsets of the Bruins and Quebec Nordiques to get Montreal into the conference's championship series.
The Islanders, hoping to tie Montreal's record by winning the Stanley Cup for the fifth straight time, beat the New York Rangers and the Capitals. Montreal won the first two games of the conference finals, but the Islanders snapped back with four straight wins.
The Stanley Cup final was a rematch of the previous year's confrontation, when the Islanders swept the Oilers. This year, Edmonton focused on defense rather than offense and it paid off. After winning the first game, 1-0, the Oilers lost the second, but they came back to outscore the Islanders, 19-6, to win the next three in a row and take the cup.