TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Islanders get shower of suds in Coliseum night to remember with Game 6 victory

The Islanders wave to the fans as beer

The Islanders wave to the fans as beer cans are thrown on the ice after their 3-2 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Semifinals during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Coliseum on June 23, 2021 Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

Anthony Beauvillier said the place smelled like cigarettes when overtime began, and like beer when it ended, a weirdly appropriate, time-warping narrative arc for the occasion.

Cigarettes? What is this, 1972?

Well, yeah, kind of, in the sense that if this was the last game the Islanders will play at Nassau Coliseum, it tied a neat bow on a half-century of history with a finale that never will be forgotten.

Of course, that is not the Islanders’ plan.

After a thrilling, come-from-behind, 3-2 overtime victory over the Lightning in Game 6 of a Stanley Cup semifinal on Wednesday night, their aim is to win Game 7 in Tampa on Friday and reach their first Cup Final since 1984.

They have not been this close since that long-ago loss to the Oilers that ended their four-Cup dynasty.

But regardless of where they go from here, they and their fans always will have this: Beauvillier beating perhaps the best goaltender in the world, Andrei Vasilevskiy, 1:08 into overtime off a turnover by Blake Coleman.

"This will be one that you remember as a player, as a coach, as a fan," coach Barry Trotz said, then added with grand understatement, "It was a good hockey game."

When it was over, fans showered the ice with beer cans and other debris, which technically is a no-no, but which the Islanders chose to enjoy in the spirit of the evening.

"I’ve never seen anything like that," Mathew Barzal said. "A little dangerous, but you don’t see that too often, so we embraced it . . . It was good stuff."

The Islanders had lost Game 5 in Tampa, 8-0, on Monday, and when the Lightning took a 2-0 lead in Game 6 it extended their streak to 12 consecutive goals over three games. Not ideal.

The Lightning had succeeded in taking the crowd out of the game at that point, and the Islanders appeared to be finished against a team that is famous for not giving up late leads.

Then Jordan Eberle scored at 14:22 of the second, reviving the crowd, and the Islanders poured it on in the third before tying it on Scott Mayfield’s shot over Vasilevskiy’s left shoulder at 11:16 of the third.

"The message the whole day was just to give ourselves a chance," Eberle said.

Semyon Varlamov was excellent in goal, particularly during a power play late in the third period after a high-sticking penalty against Matt Martin.

Then came Beauvillier’s stunner. He had not scored a goal in the Islanders’ previous 10 games.

"Honestly, I kind of blacked out a little bit," he said of the experience, recalling a blur of screaming and jumping and, eventually, beer cans. Good thing hockey players wear helmets.

"I think we’ve earned the right to go back and play a Game 7," Beauvillier said. "Obviously, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and a big opportunity for us."

One more victory will earn the Coliseum at least another couple of games — perhaps even home ice advantage for the Final, if the Canadiens eliminate the Golden Knights.

So, this unlikely trip might be far from over. Or perhaps it has only 60 minutes left in it. Either way, what went down at the Coli on Wednesday night will endure.

Trotz recalled the hugs and the beer cans and general chaos and said, "It’s quite a sight, and it was a moment that you’ll remember.

"These are big moments and great memories to have, but you know, we’ve got to get another one."

Nikita Kucherov, arguably the Lightning’s best player, left Game 6 early and did not return, and his status for the finale is uncertain.

So is status of the Lightning’s psyche. They might be the defending Cup champions, but they must be wondering how the heck they got themselves into this position.

The Islanders looked like they were toast. Then they were showered with a toast of celebratory suds.

Five wins to go.

New York Sports