For the Islanders, there’s still a tomorrow.
Behind Anthony Beauvillier’s goal just 1:08 into overtime, the Islanders staved off elimination and forced a Game 7 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series with a 3-2 win Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum — the historic arena that can still hang on to its hopes of hosting its first Cup Final series since 1984.
Intercepting a Blake Coleman turnover, Beauvillier blasted the puck from the slot, then immediately turned around, dropped to his knees and slid into an Islanders dog pile of a celebration as beer cans rained down onto the ice.
Game 7 is set for Friday night in Tampa at 8 p.m.
Trailing 2-1 at the start of the third, not even Mathew Barzal’s wizardry with the puck or a power-play opportunity at 8:15 that brought the entire Coliseum crowd to its feet resulted in a goal for the Islanders.
But a Scott Mayfield snipe to the top corner on Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy blew the roof off of the Old Barn and knotted the game 2-2 with 8:44 left in regulation.
The Islanders then had to fend off the Lightning’s thunderous power play when Matt Martin was called for high-sticking shortly after the game-tying tally. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov came up with three big saves, including one on a one-timer from Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos, to allow the Isles to ultimately force overtime.
After the Islanders whiffed on a 58-second four-on-three power play and then a five-on-three chance that lasted just over a minute in the second period while down 1-0, it felt like the Old Barn deflated a bit. The arena drooped even further when Anthony Cirelli broke free for a partial breakaway and went five-hole on Varlamov to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead at 12:36.
Cirelli’s score was the 12th unanswered goal for Tampa Bay at the time, after the Lightning had mangled the Islanders 8-0 in Game 5 and scored the last two goals of the Isles’ victory in Game 4.
Jordan Eberle finally ended the Isles’ scoring drought at 116:25, backhanding one past Vasilevskiy to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The team that has scored first had won each game this series, and the Lightning ensured they were the ones to strike first. Heading into Game 6, Tampa Bay was also 11-1 this postseason in contests in which they scored first.
Despite a heap of offensive zone time for the Islanders in the opening 20 minutes, Brayden Point — because, who else? — put the Lightning on the board with a backhander at 16:02 of the first. The goal extended Point’s goal-scoring streak to nine consecutive games, dating back to Game 3 of Tampa Bay’s second-round series against the Hurricanes.