UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Islanders staved off closure of the Nassau Coliseum for at least a little longer with a 3-2, come-from-behind overtime win Wednesday night. Whether the ice can be melted one final time at the Old Barn is now labeled as “to be determined” as the home team forced a Game 7.
Things started a little bit better for the Islanders than they did two nights prior when they were blown out of Amalie Arena in Tampa 8-0. The first goal of that game came just 45 seconds after the drop of the puck. In this game, they came out matching tempo with the Bolts in front of a loud and boisterous crowd. But the fans were all hushed when Brayden Point did, well, Brayden Point things — again.
The Calgary, Alta., native lit the lamp for the ninth consecutive game; only Reggie Leach’s 10 straight games with a goal stands in his way of the record.
In the second period, the Lightning killed off a 5-on-3 for about a minute before Anthony Cirelli gave them a two-goal lead. His fourth goal of the postseason went five-hole through netminder Semyon Varlamov. But the Islanders, with the crowd fully behind them, got one back with under six minutes left in the middle frame. Jordan Eberle, who entered Game 6 with just three goals in the postseason and amid a six-game goal drought, threw a backhander on net and past the blocker of Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Islanders had their chances after that. Mathew Barzal controlled the puck for a Steve Yzerman amount of time in the first few minutes of the third period. Kyle Palmieri pulled Vasilevksiy out but couldn’t tuck the puck in behind him. Eberle had a chance for his second with just over 12 minutes to go.
Maybe they got a jump from Jets guard Greg Van Roten pounding a beer and then smashing the container on his head. Maybe it was because it seemed as if the crowd was standing the rest of the way.
With 8:44 left on the clock, Scott Mayfield — who probably should have been called for cross-checking Nikita Kucherov in the back and knocking him out of the game after one shift— became an unlikely Islanders hero. He went down the right wing and beat Vasilevskiy top shelf to even things. It was just his third career playoff goal and his first since Game 3 of the first round against the Penguins.
The building was hopping after that, although things got dicey for the hometown team when Matt Martin took a high-sticking penalty with 5:57 remaining. Varlamov and his crew held the Lightning at bay, and with the fans chanting a deafening “Let’s Go Islanders,” the game went to a nail-biting overtime.
New York didn’t need much time in the extra session, however.
Just 68 seconds in, Anthony Beauvillier intercepted a pass deep in the offensive zone — he said postgame that he blacked out — and buried it.
“Feels amazing, to be honest. Going into OT the building smelled like cigarettes and now it smells like beers. Everybody is happy we’re going back to Tampa,” said the goal scorer.
The building erupted as the Islanders flew off the bench to swarm the overtime hero. And as the team celebrated, so did the fans — by throwing beer cans and bottles onto the ice and sticking around long past the team had left the ice.
“I love this group, the character of this group. And the building, these fans,” said bench boss Barry Trotz. “Going off the ice, everybody’s hugging each other, there’s beer cans all over the ice. These are great memories to have. But we’ve got to get another one.”
It’ll now come down to that Game 7 on Friday night in Tampa to determine who will play for the Stanley Cup.