Everybody loves Nassau Coliseum.
Everybody loves the big moments that made the Old Barn on Hempstead Turnpike the historic place it is. And there’s been a number of them that still resonate with generations of New York Islanders fans.
We all know the ones that specifically come to mind. (John) Tonelli to (Bobby) Nystrom to win the first Cup in ’80. Tonelli’s OT winner in ’82 to keep the dynasty alive. Bossy’s 50 in 50. Ken Morrow’s OT winner to beat the hated Rangers in 1984′. Shawn Bates penalty shot in game four in ’02. And most recently Josh Bailey’s OT winner in game one of the first round last spring.
Even with all those incredible memories, there’s a few others which come to mind. They don’t receive the same fanfare but still made the building rock to its core.
5. Roman Hamrlik gives the Isles the lead in the third period of Game Four against Toronto
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) April 16, 2020
To set the stage, the Islanders headed into a pivotal game four versus the Leafs down 2-1 in the series. And as fate would have it, that was the exact score as the two teams were set for the third period in that game.
Kip Miller would tie the game setting up for a wild frantic final ten minutes. Just before the five-minute mark, Hamrlik came over the blue line and let a shot go that eluded Leafs’ goaltender Curtis Joseph. The goal sent the Coliseum crowd into a frenzy and almost blew the roof off.
Bates’s famous penalty shot game-winning goal would come just a few minutes later and led to utter pandemonium. But it was Hamrlik’s goal that was the precursor that made the fans lose their minds.
4. Matt Moulson scores the opening goal of Game Three in 2013 against the Penguins
A Sunday noon start time would mark the first time in six years that playoff hockey had returned to Coliseum ice. The fans had been tailgating since the wee hours of the morning in preparation, so they were ready to explode, and so was the team.
The Isles came out flying from the drop of the puck and it took under two minutes for them to evoke that roar from the Coliseum’s glory days.
Off the rush, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky threw a harmless hot on Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who left a rebound. A scramble ensued and Kyle Okposo was jabbing at it but no dice. Then came Matt Moulson, who trailed the play and on his second hack slipped it by Fleury, which sent the crowd into delirium.
It was as crazy a moment as you could ask for, let alone to begin such a crucial game in the series. The place was rocking, just as it was for our third pick.
3. Steve Thomas scores to ensure there would be a Game Seven back in Pittsburgh
The Islanders checked into game six facing elimination after the Pittsburgh had routed them 6-3 in game five at The Igloo. With their backs against the wall, the Isles did everything they could to shift the game in their favor.
After a wild second period — one the two teams would combine five goals scored — it was a tie game going into the third period. Bryan Mullen would score 5:42 into the frame, which would turn out to be the eventual game-winner. It was Thomas’s marker not even five minutes later that sealed that there would be a game seven and made for one of the loudest atmospheres in the post-dynasty era.
David Volek’s goal will forever be the biggest moment of this series, but Thomas’s goal in the third period of game six had the Old Barn swaying.
2. Cal Clutterbuck’s empty net goal starts a party
Game six in the first round of the 2015 playoffs was the day that the doors could have been shut for the Coliseum.
The Islanders, though made it their mission to make sure that didn’t happen.
With the crowd behind them all game, and them wanting one last win and the chance to force game seven, the Isles battled tooth-and-nail with the Caps for 50-plus minutes. They would take the lead with just after the midway point of the third after Nikolay Kulemin — who somehow was all alone after three Caps shifted their attention to John Tavares — beat goaltender Braden Holtby.
Hunkering down in the waning minutes, the Capitals tried to dump it in, only to see it be caught by Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk then just flipped it along the boards, where Clutterbuck forced Caps’s star Alex Ovechkin to turn the puck over. Clutterbuck had the entire net to shoot and flung a perfect shot right at the empty net, leading the building to begin shaking.
The following 45 seconds and the scene that ensued was one for the ages.
1. Eric Cairns pummels Shayne Corson in Game Six against Toronto
It’s no surprise that another moment from that vicious but entertaining series tops this list.
It was in the final minutes of game six when the Islanders were already leading by two and knew they’d forced a game seven back in Toronto. And one thing was on their minds: getting a slice of revenge for Michael Peca and Kenny Jonsson being taken out in game five.
Enter Eric Cairns.
Cairns went straight at Corson — who was a total pain in the ass all series long — and gave him, the Leafs and the crowd a preview of what would be in store for them two nights later. Their tilt was one of the best you’ll ever watch, but it made an insane crowd to start with go even more berserk.
After the fight was over, Cairns skated off to the dressing room waiving his finger to the crowd in a number one-like salute. It still remains one of the loudest moments in the Coliseum’s history, but doesn’t get the total recognition it truly deserves.
Hopefully there will be a few new memories to reminisce about before the Isles leave the Coliseum for good after the 2020-21 season.
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