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Beating Rangers in their final visit to  Coliseum is meaningful to Islanders

A view of the opening face off of

A view of the opening face off of a game between the Islanders and the Rangers at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Sure, it was not quite as dramatic as Ken Morrow scoring an overtime playoff series-clincher before a full, raucous house in 1984 — or any number of other Rangers-Islanders moments at Nassau Coliseum.

But on Saturday night, none of that mattered to the Islanders and their limited-capacity crowd as they closed out the storied history of Rangers visits to Uniondale with a 3-0 victory that clinched a third consecutive playoff berth.

It was what Barry Trotz had in mind when he noted the historical import during a team meeting in preparation for the game.

The coach said he looked around the room at the likes of veterans Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck, "guys that have really cut their teeth in this building," and said what was on his mind.

"I thought it would be appropriate we came with a really solid effort the last meeting in this building," Trotz said. "I think this building has some personality, and I think it’s fitting that the last game against the Rangers, which is your rivalry, that you get a victory in this building.

"So I thought it was important to that group of players who think about this building as home."

The current players aren’t the only ones. Four decades worth of Islanders and their fans came before them.

They all shared in the teams’ 151st and final meeting at the Coliseum. (Barring construction delays at UBS Arena this autumn, of course.)

Even the Rangers appreciated the history. Brendan Smith, a 10-year NHL veteran, said on Friday, "I love playing there. I think the atmosphere is awesome . . . So it’s definitely an exciting moment for me. I’ll cherish the moment."

Before the game, Rangers coach David Quinn said the night would "for sure" have added meaning.

"When you come into this building and you’re sitting in that coach’s office before your team heads out onto the ice, you can just feel the atmosphere and the electricity," he said, "and it just makes for a special night."

There was nothing special on the ice for the Rangers in laying their third consecutive egg against the Islanders and falling to the brink of playoff elimination.

But the Islanders had a grand old time. Mathew Barzal said clinching at home against the Rangers was "an even better feeling" than it would have been under other circumstances.

Said Anthony Beauvillier, who scored two goals to enhance his reputation as a Rangers-killer, "It’s easy to wake up and play the Rangers."

He said he enjoys the added energy in the building when they visit, including the fact that there usually are plenty of fans of both teams at the Coliseum.

Not so much on Saturday, though, when Islanders fans dominated the crowd of 1,400 or so.

Readers old enough to recall March 10, 2015, might remember that that was the last time the Rangers played their last game at the Coliseum, a milestone erased by the detour to Brooklyn.

But this time they really mean it. We think.

So, adieu, Blueshirts. It was fun.

Remember, it was a Ranger who scored the first goal in the building, in an exhibition against the Islanders on Sept. 27, 1972. Avid fans might recall the name: Glen Sather. He later had some success as a coach and executive.

The Rangers won, 6-4, after which center Walt Tkaczuk said, "I think the Islanders are going to do OK."

Eventually, they did. And here we are.

The Islanders have big games left to play at the Coliseum. But the next time they host the Rangers will be in a new home.

"You close this chapter, and I’m sure there will be other stories to write moving forward at the new arena," said Bailey, the longest-termed current Islander. "But I think for now, we’re obviously happy to clinch."

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