UNIONDALE, NY – The Islanders prevented the Nassau Coliseum from closing with a 3-2 win on Wednesday night in extra time. Whether the ice can be melted one last time at the Old Barn is now referred to as “to be determined” as the home team forced a game 7.
“We are of course a resilient group and we knew we had a lot of time on the clock. So we just stuck with it and were lucky enough to score two goals and obviously win in extra time,” said Mathew Barzal.
Things started a little better for the Islanders than they did two nights earlier when they were blown 8-0 out of the Amalie Arena in Tampa. The first goal of the game was scored just 45 seconds after the puck was thrown. In this game they came out in front of a noisy and boisterous crowd at the pace of the bolts. But the fans were all silent when Brayden Point did, well, Brayden Point things – again.
A native of Calgary, Alta, lit the lamp for the ninth game in a row; only Reggie Leach’s 10 straight goals stand in the way of the record.
In the second third, the Lightning killed a 5-on-3 for about a minute before Anthony Cirelli gave them a two-goal lead. His fourth goal in the postseason came from goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov via five holes. But the Islanders, with the crowd fully behind them, were less than six minutes behind in the middle frame. Jordan Eberle, who entered the sixth game in the postseason with just three goals and was in a goal doldrums of six games, threw a backhand into the net and overtook the blocker of Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Islanders had their chances after that. Barzal controlled the puck for Steve Yzerman in the first minutes of the third period. Kyle Palmieri pulled Vasilevskiy out but couldn’t put the puck behind him. Eberle had a chance of second place just over 12 minutes before the end.
Maybe they got a jump from jet guard Greg Van Roten who pounded a beer and then hit him on the head with the container. Maybe it was because it looked like the crowd was standing the rest of the way.
With 8:44 remaining, Scott Mayfield – who probably should have been called in to check Nikita Kucherov’s back and kick him out of the game after a shift – became an unlikely Islanders hero. He went down the right wing and hit Vasilevskiy on the top shelf to level things out. It was only his third playoff goal in his career and his first since Game 3 of the first round against the Penguins.
After that, the building bounced, although things got tricky for the hometown team when Matt Martin shot a high sticking penalty with 5:57 remaining. Varlamov and his crew held the Lightning in check, and while the fans sang a deafening “Let’s Go Islanders,” the game went into a nerve-wracking overtime.
However, New York didn’t need much time in the extra session.
Just 68 seconds later, Anthony Beauvillier intercepted a pass deep in the offensive zone – he said after the game he passed out – and buried it.
“Feels fantastic, to be honest. The building that was being extended smelled like cigarettes and now it smells like beer,” said the goalscorer. “This place was crazy so everyone’s glad we’re going back to Tampa.”
The building erupted as the islanders flew off the bank to rave about the overtime hero. And as the team celebrated, so did the fans – by tossing beer cans and bottles on the ice and staying long behind the team that left the ice.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Barzal with a smile before adding that it was “a little dangerous”.
“It’s one of the best [moments]“Said bank manager Barry Despite when he was asked where Game 6 will be one of his career highlights. “I love this group, the character of this group. And this building and its meaning for a number of players and especially for our fans. These are great moments. Away from the ice, everyone is hugging, beer cans are flying around everywhere. It’s quite a sight.
“These are great memories. But we have to get another one.”
It will now come to Game 7 on Friday night in Tampa to determine who will play for the Stanley Cup.