Nerves were natural. It was a Game 7 after all.
The Islanders and Flyers ended their second-round series on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto after the Flyers staved off elimination twice with overtime wins, including Thursday night’s 5-4 double overtime victory.
“I think it’s good to be nervous,” said Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy, who participated in his fifth Game 7 in the NHL playoffs, having lost three of his first four. “It’s a high-pressure game, it’s do-or-die.”
Saturday marked the ninth Game 7 in Islanders’ franchise history and they had lost five of their first eight. It was the third time in five playoff matchups between the Islanders and Flyers the series had gone the full seven games.
Leddy was with the Islanders for their last Game 7 as they were eliminated in the first round in 2015 by the Capitals, then coached by current Islanders’ bench boss Barry Trotz.
“Game 7, it’s not a normal game,” said Trotz, who coached his first Game 7 for the Islanders after splitting four with the Capitals. “A regular-season game is normal. Game 7, they’re special. There’s a heightened awareness, anticipation. You’re excited. You’ve got some nerves. You’ve got all those good things. Everybody’s all-in.”
The Flyers’ Alain Vigneault won five of his first seven Game 7s as an NHL coach. That included rallying his Rangers from a 3-1 series deficit past Trotz’s Capitals in the second round in 2015. Vigneault’s Rangers also rallied from a 3-1 series deficit in the second round against the Penguins in 2014.
“I would say if you’re not a little bit nervous, you’re not normal,” Vigneault said. “It is normal with Game 7, with what’s at stake, with what’s on the line, to be nervous, to be anxious, to have those butterflies.”
Here’s how the Islanders fared in their previous Game 7s:
Quarterfinals (Penguins) – The Islanders became the second team in NHL history – there are now four – to rally from a 3-0 deficit as they beat the Penguins, 1-0, in Game 7 with Ed Westfall scoring the lone goal and Chico Resch in net.
Semifinals (Flyers) – The Islanders nearly do it again, spotting the Flyers the first three games before forcing a Game 7. But the Flyers clinched it with a 4-1 win at the Spectrum.
Quarterfinals (Maple Leafs) – More was expected after three straight berths in the semifinals but the underdog Maple Leafs bullied the not-quite-ready Islanders and won Game 7, 2-1, in overtime at Nassau Coliseum on Lanny McDonald’s goal.
First round (Capitals) – The Easter Epic. Pat LaFontaine’s turnaround slap shot over goalie Bob Mason’s glove at 8:47 of the fourth overtime gave the Islanders a 3-2 win and concluded their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. The game started on Saturday night and ended early on Easter Sunday.
Second round (Flyers) – The Islanders forced a Game 7 after trailing the series 3-1 but Brian Propp and Brad Marsh scored shorthanded goals 44 seconds apart as the Flyers went on to a 5-1 win at the Spectrum.
Second round (Penguins) – The two-time Stanley Cup-champion Penguins took a 3-2 series lead but the Islanders forced a Game 7 and completed the upset at the Igloo on David Volek’s goal at 5:16 of overtime for a 4-3 win.
First round (Maple Leafs) – The teams engaged in a brutally physical series, with Shawn Bates’ Game 4 penalty shot winner certainly a highlight. But the home team won each time and the Maple Leafs won Game 7 at Toronto, 4-2, as Alexander Mogilny scored twice.
First round (Capitals) – All involved have since called this the most physical series they can remember. The Islanders forced Game 7 with an emotional, 3-1 win in Game 6 in what they knew could have been the Coliseum closer. But the Capitals limited the Islanders to 11 shots in their 2-1 win in Game 7 as Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the winner at 12:42 of the third period.