TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Islanders' series-clinching win over Penguins gives Nassau Coliseum crowd a fresh memory

Islanders fans celebrates a goal during the second

Islanders fans celebrates a goal during the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

They chanted Ilya Sorokin’s name and taunted Tristan Jarry.

They sang "Happy Birthday" to Mathew Barzal and sang the Josh Bailey song to Josh Bailey.

They chanted, "We want Boston!"

They gave Ralph Macchio a standing ovation.

Of course, they yelled, "Let’s go Islanders!"

Mostly, though, they partied like it was 1993.

On a raucous, rowdy, retro Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum, Islanders fans had a grand time watching their team eliminate the Penguins, 5-3, in Game 6 of a first-round playoff series.

It was the first time the Islanders clinched a playoff series at the Coliseum in 28 years, and it ensured at least two more games there in the second round against the Bruins.

What began with a trickle of 1,400 or so fans in March and grew to 6,800 last week expanded to 9,000 for Game 6, and the sound matched anything from the full-capacity days of yore.

When it was over, players raised their sticks in gratitude and both Islanders goalies, Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, clapped their gloves together to thank the audience.

Before the game, coach Barry Trotz had asked the fans for their best.

"They can help a lot," he said. "I hope they start cheering and getting the lungs going about 1 o’clock this afternoon. They should be primed up for a real good night, hopefully. We’ll need them."

He got them.

"A little bit of a crazy game," said Brock Nelson, who scored two goals and missed an empty net with a chance for a hat trick. "The fans gave us a boost. They were fired up today. They were rowdy. They were loud.

"It’s awesome having them back . . . They were rocking. They were ready to go."

Said Anthony Beauvillier, who also scored, "They were a huge part of our success."

Kyle Palmieri added, "The building was electric."

Nelson figured there were some fans in the arena who had been there for the dynasty years of the early 1980s, and presumably there were others who were there in 1993.

Now there is a new generation with such memories.

"It was fun to get it done tonight in front of them," Nelson said. "It’s just one step. We want to try to make some history of our own here and make some history at the Coli."

The Islanders prevailed with another excellent performance by their second line of Nelson, Beauvillier and Bailey, and with some help from another shaky performance by Jarry, the Pittsburgh goalie. (The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask figures to be a far more formidable obstacle.)

Before the series began, the Islanders’ goaltending edge was perceived to be a difference-maker, and it was.

Sorokin now is 4-0 in his NHL playoff career.

It all came together during the bedlam of the second period, when the Islanders scored thrice in about three minutes to take a 5-3 lead.

When it was 3-2 early in the second, the Jets’ Dan Feeney – who famously celebrated with his teammates at the Coliseum during Game 4 – was shown on the video board exhorting the fans.

Shortly thereafter, the Islanders took care of that themselves, with goals by Nelson, Ryan Pulock and then Nelson again. Noise ensued.

Then Sorokin stopped a breakaway by future Hall of Famer Evgeni Malkin, inspiring deafening chants of "Il-ya, Il-ya."

"Our fans were fantastic," Trotz said. "They were loud. They were into it."

Before the game Trotz said he hoped his team would savor the opportunity.

"It’s a moment," he said. "I always look at it that these are moments when you want to live in it and stay in the moment. When you’re young you don’t recognize moments, and when you’re older I think you do."

On Wednesday night at the Old Barn, fans and players young and old recognized a moment when they lived one.

New York Sports