Nassau Coliseum has hosted numerous memorable playoff games, before and since the four Stanley Cups from 1980-83, where its foundation literally shook and the Islanders’ fans rose to deafening decibel levels.
Put this 3-2, come-from-behind overtime win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning on Wednesday night in Game 6 of their NHL semifinal series on Anthony Beauvillier’s steal and tally at 1:08 of the extra period high on that list. The delirious crowd of 12,978 celebrated by showering the ice with tall boy beer cans.
As a result, there may yet be more Cup Final games at the beloved barn before the team moves to UBS Arena at Belmont Park next season.
"I’ve had a few moments," said Barry Trotz, who has coached in the NHL since 1998 and won a Cup with the Capitals in 2018. "It’ll be up there with one of the best because of the situation. The group that is playing. I love this group, the character of this group. And I would say this building and what it’s meant to a number of players but probably, more than anything, our fans. These are great moments.
"Coming off the ice and everybody’s hugging each other. There’s beer cans flying all over. It was quite a sight and it was a moment you’ll remember. But we’ve got to get another one."
Game 7 is Friday night at Amalie Arena, where the Lightning won Game 5, 8-0, on Monday night. The Lightning may be without top-line right wing Nikita Kucherov, who exited after his first shift in the first period appearing to favor his right shoulder or arm but who also took an unpenalized cross-check from defenseman Scott Mayfield that shook him up.
The Lightning beat the Islanders in last season’s Eastern Conference finals in the Edmonton bubble, winning the decisive Game 6, 2-1, in overtime.
This time, the Islanders rallied after falling behind 2-0 when Anthony Cirelli was sprung past defensemen Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock to beat Semyon Varlamov through his pads at 12:36 of the second period.
"It was 2-1 going into the third period so we knew we had a chance to win this game or tie the game in the third period," said Varlamov, who made 22 saves, including five on the Lightning’s second power play after Matt Martin was called for a questionable high-sticking against Pat Maroon at 14:03 of the third period. "We came out very hard and we had a really strong third period. We created a lot of scoring chances in the third and it paid off in the end."
"He’s been solid all year and when you get saves on a kill like that and you get some momentum," said Jordan Eberle, who cut the lead to 2-1 on a backhander from the slot at 14:22 of the second period after the Islanders managed just one shot on a five-on-three power play that lasted one minute, two seconds earlier in the period. "Hockey is a funny game, it usually shifts the other way. That seemed to be the difference. We’re just fighting to keep ourselves alive here."
Mayfield tied the game at 2 at 11:16 of the third period, taking a feed from Mathew Barzal and beating Andrei Vasilevskiy (25 saves) over his left shoulder.
The Islanders carried the momentum into overtime and Beauvillier ended it quickly, creating a turnover deep in the zone and wristing a shot past Vasilevskiy to snap a 10-game goal drought.
"It feels amazing," Beauvillier said. "That building came into overtime smelling like cigarettes, now it smells like beer. That place was going crazy. Everyone’s happy we’re going back to Tampa and a huge effort from our team today."
The Lightning have won six straight playoff series since being swept in the first round in 2019 by the Blue Jackets but this is the first time in their playoff win streak they’ve been pushed to seven games.
The Lightning took a 1-0 lead at 16:02 as Brayden Point, from off the left post, extended his goal streak to nine games, leaving him one game shy of tying the NHL playoff record, set by the Flyers’ Reggie Leach in 1976.