Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.
If these walls could talk, they would say, "What a shame." They would regret that it was too bad for the Islanders that their home arena could not make a difference. Fact is, as much as Nassau Coliseum has been a major focus in this series, it was not the deciding factor Tuesday night.
Home ice just has not mattered through the first four games of this even, and increasingly bitter, series. The Islanders and Capitals have each won one and lost one on the other's ice, before very loud and hungry crowds every time. The site seemed particularly important for the past two games, given that this is the last postseason go-round for the place that everyone is calling the Old Barn.
To be sure, Islanders fans tried as hard as they could with the force of their will and the strength of their lungs. But in the end, the Islanders lost, 2-1, in overtime to end a game that was more about a broken stick, a sluggish power play, some tired defensemen and a controversial hit than the place where it all occurred.
"It's tough. We battled hard. We had a lot of chances to score and they just threw a floater in on net," said Casey Cizikas, who centered the Islanders' most effective line and scored their only goal. "I don't know if it hit something and went in, but those are the ones that go in in OT."
For the record, Nicklas Backstrom scored at 11:09 of overtime, turning the place quiet in a hurry. The circumstances were a little fluky. Despite all the talk about purloined seats in the Coliseum -- people evidently taking early keepsakes after Game 3 Sunday -- the pivotal furnishing again was one of the Islanders' sticks. This time, it was that of John Tavares, who had used his stick to win the previous game in overtime.
"I've never seen anything like it, to be honest with you. It's the third goal now on a broken stick," Jack Capuano said, painfully aware that two Islanders sticks came apart at key times during their Game 2 loss in Washington.
Before he addressed the media, the Islanders coach watched the final sequence once more. "We're all in good position, D-side position as we call it. I don't know if [Backstrom] shoots the puck if Johnny has got stick on puck, but he's a smart player. He recognized Johnny didn't have a stick and he put the puck on net. It hit off a player and it goes in the back of the net."
Brian Strait, one of the five Islanders defensemen who had to play extra time after Lubomir Visnovsky was injured by Tom Wilson's illegal (and penalized) hit early in the second period, said: "That's the game, it's hockey. We got a little puck luck the last game, they did today. It's hockey."
In other words, it can happen to anybody -- and it can happen anywhere.
These teams are so evenly matched, each having amassed 101 points in the regular season, that the "where" doesn't seem decisive when they face each other.
The crowd could do nothing to put a puck past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby on any of the Islanders' four power plays. Capuano said afterward that it would not be surprising to see some changes among the forward lines for Game 5 in Washington Thursday night. "Guys are squeezing the sticks a little bit," he said.
So Tuesday night was not another emotional milestone on Memory Lane.
"It was a playoff game, that's what it came down to," Cizikas said. "It was physical, fast. It came down to a shot on net."
If the Coliseum's walls could talk, they would say, "See you Saturday."