“It’s time to write a new history in this barn,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said Friday morning, looking eight hours ahead to a historic night at UBS Arena.
Come Friday night, the Islanders wrote the first chapter, winning a tense game that featured a wild finish and resulted in a 5-1 win over the Hurricanes.
It likely saved their season, allowing them to cut Carolina’s edge in the teams’ first-round playoff series to 2-1.
But it did more than that: It was a step toward creating memories for a new generation of fans too young to recall Nassau Coliseum in its heyday — or old enough to want more of the same, with nicer amenities.
It only added to the fun that the Islanders got the job done by scoring four goals in 2:18, starting with Kyle Palmieri’s tiebreaking power-play goal with 3:51 remaining. Palmieri was born in Smithtown and still has family on Long Island.
Next in the goal-scoring line was Matt Martin, a longtime fan favorite. Then came Scott Mayfield, into an empty net, two nights after he was at the center of a controversial no-call in the Islanders’ overtime loss in Game 2. Finally, there was Anders Lee, capping the scoring and then lauding everyone involved for a heck of a night.
He called the crowd “phenomenal” and added, “Fun to be in front of our fans, fun to be back here on the Island playing playoff hockey with that group out there. A lot of fun. I hope they had a great night tonight and we can’t wait to see them here on Sunday [for Game 4].”
Palmieri said, “I look back a couple of years ago at the run [to the conference finals] at the Coliseum and how special that was, and special for different reasons. Tonight was a special night opening up playoff hockey at UBS.
“Our fans were into it, we were into it. It was an awesome atmosphere and a fun way to finish it off.”
Palmieri added, “Those kinds of things, they’re memories that our fans have, we have. Some of them don’t compare to some of the memories at the Coliseum, but for us in the past two years, it’s become home.”
The gates opened at 5:28 p.m. and fans poured in in a festive mood. Among them was Louis DiNapoli, originally from Bayville, who was celebrating both his 67th birthday and the first playoff game at UBS.
He wore an Islanders-logoed sports jacket with sparkly orange lapels, a sparkly orange bow tie and an Islanders top hat sporting an orange feather.
A friend made the outfit for him to wear to the first game at UBS on Nov. 20, 2021. He chose to break it out again for Friday’s milestone.
“The Coliseum was the Coliseum, and we were known for rocking that building and intimidating [opponents],” said DiNapoli, who said he has attended every home opener and every home playoff game in franchise history.
“So now we have to christen this one. It’s going to be just as loud, just as crazy. It’s going to be a little different, but it’s going to be loud, especially if they start winning.”
It took until the final four minutes to create that winning vibe. It was worth the wait.
Before the game, Martin said, “Those long playoff runs in the Coliseum, it was a pretty special thing how loud that building got. Really excited to see what the atmosphere [at UBS] is like.”
He found out after his goal. The new arena might be sturdier than the old one, but it shook — or at least the press box did — after he scored.
“It was pretty awesome,” Martin said later. “I didn’t think that anything would be like the Coliseum, but it was damn close.”