If you think about it, what unfolded last night inside Nassau Coliseum had the feel of something spiritual.
There felt like somebody or multiple forces watching over the Islanders as they put on a tremendous comeback to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay tomorrow night. It could have been Bill Torrey, who has a banner that roams the low ceiling that reads “The Architect” and would have celebrated his 87th birthday yesterday. It could have been Al Arbour. His Islanders’ teams always had a flair for the dramatic during their run as the last great hockey dynasty. Or could it have been John Tonelli, whose two goals in Game 5 of the 1982 Patrick Division Semi-Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins kept the dynasty going. Just like that memorable game, the Isles had to battle down from a 2-0 deficit to save their season last night.
Heck, maybe it was all three. Whatever or whoever’s aura it was: the Islanders channeled it at the most crucial time.
Staring down a multi-goal disadvantage — right after they failed to score on a 5-on-3 — all seemed to be lost for the Islanders. The building had the air sucked out of it, but then something happened. Mathew Barzal, who was a force all game long, made a sweet drop pass as he entered the zone on to the waiting stick of Jordan Eberle. Eberle then took a stride and whipped a backhander past Bolts netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy to get the Islanders on the board and bring the Coliseum up from its knees.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 24, 2021
We needed it,” said head coach Barry Trotz in the postgame. “The way we were playing, I felt that we were going to be fine. They made it 2-0. Then, the game teeters a little bit, if they make it 3-0 it gets pretty daunting. But that was a big goal for us. We’re back to square one as we were down a goal after the first period.”
After Eberle’s marker, you could feel the tide beginning to turn. The Islanders kept coming and coming, the building getting louder and louder harkening back to those days of when “Fort Neverlose” wasn’t just a way to describe the Coliseum, it was a mindset.
I for one never got to see what those days were like, having been born in the early ‘90s. But the countless stories — the comebacks, the noise, the clutch moments — all still resonate. And, it felt as the game got into its later stages with the Isles still looking for the equalizer, another moment was coming.
Enter Scott Mayfield — whom looked like Denis Potvin in his prime, with his perfectly-placed shot to even the score just after the midpoint of the third. That goal only created more belief that the Isles might pull this thing off.
Once overtime began, you could feel the nervousness and excitement in the air. That feeling was — or maybe wasn’t — turned up to 11 knowing that the next goal could keep or close down the Coliseum as we know it.
Here’s a hint — it was excitement. No, it was jubilation.
Just 1:08 into the first extra session, Anthony Beauvillier grabbed a puck off a turnover forced by Josh Bailey and wired it past Vasilevskiy to win the game and complete one of the greatest postseason comebacks in franchise history.
“Honestly, I kind of blacked out a little bit,” Beauvillier said following his game-winner. “[The Lightning] turned the puck over I think and then saw it go in — like I said, I kind of blacked out. I was just so happy, was screaming and everyone kind of jumped on me. Obviously, amazing feeling and couldn’t be more happy.”
What followed Beauvillier’s electric winner was a beer shower, which seemed fitting as those were commonplace after iconic moments from the dynasty would take place inside the Old Barn.
If that didn’t tell you that there was a higher power looking over the Isles, what will?
Ice is covered in beer cans. What a sight. pic.twitter.com/jIx1HfhIGX
— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) June 24, 2021
Now it’s on to another do-or-die situation tomorrow night for the Islanders. Hopefully the ghosts of the Coliseum will be with them again with a shot at the Stanley Cup Final at stake.
Last night they were out in full force and gave the team the push they needed to keep the Old Barn on Hempstead Turnpike open for at least one more game.
Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_