If this indeed was the playoff-bound Islanders’ final regular-season game at Nassau Coliseum, they gave the outdated but beloved barn a worthwhile ending.
Reversing their sluggish play during a post-clinching three-game losing streak, the Islanders beat the Devils, 5-1, on Saturday night. The passing was crisper, there was good structure in their defensive game and they consistently got pucks deep.
"A lot of memories, so just trying to finish on a positive moment," said Brock Nelson, who scored two goals in the second period as he played in his 300th consecutive game. "Then, also staying in the moment and realizing where we are and trying to build our game for the playoffs and make this a special run."
There was a lingering cheer from the limited-capacity sellout crowd of 1,400 as the Islanders gathered at center ice to salute the fans after the win.
"We talked about it," said Jordan Eberle, who completed a two-on-one with Mathew Barzal to make it 1-0 at 18:01 of the first period. "We wanted to finish off in the win column. This building has got a lot of history behind it. It’s tough without all of the fans in the building, but it’s always good to send the regular season off with a win."
The Islanders (32-17-6) still have a slim possibility of finishing third in the East Division. They need a regulation win in Monday’s season finale in Boston and for the Bruins to lose their finale against the Capitals in regulation on Tuesday.
"All four lines were generating chances," said ex-Devil Kyle Palmieri, who made it 4-1 at 3:32 of the third period with his second goal as an Islander since being acquired on April 7. "It was nice to be able to contribute and pop one in. But it’s nice to get contributions up and down the lineup like that."
The Islanders, of course, left the Coliseum once before, moving to Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season before returning to split games between the buildings in 2018-19 and last season.
This season marked a temporary full-time return to the Coliseum before opening UBS Arena at Belmont Park. But there’s still a chance the Islanders will have more regular-season home games at the Coliseum. UBS Arena is targeted to open in November, but the NHL wants to start next season on Oct. 12, so the Islanders might have to play a handful of games at the Coliseum.
The Islanders ended with a 21-4-3 home record this season and are 877-629-169 (ties)-63 (overtime or shootout losses) at the Coliseum. This season’s home winning percentage of .804 is the fourth best in team history, per team statistician Eric Hornick. The Islanders were 33-3-4 (.875) in 1981-82.
Andreas Johnsson tied the score at 4:58 of the second period as the Islanders’ defense was caught flat-footed. Nelson regained a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal at 9:00 of the period, knocking in a rebound from the slot after Mackenzie Blackwood (22 saves) could not keep Oliver Wahlstrom’s blast from the left circle in his glove. Nelson made it 3-1 at 12:40 as Blackwood could not control Anthony Beauvillier’s initial shot.
Barzal capped the scoring on a two-on-one rush 37 seconds after Palmieri’s goal.
Ilya Sorokin had to make 13 of his 23 saves in the third period, leaving coach Barry Trotz unhappy that his team couldn’t maintain its intensity after taking a four-goal lead.
"I thought some of our players got very loose with the puck," Trotz said. "That would be the only concerning thing for me is that we didn’t stay to our game. That’s something we said we’d do."
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