Bob Nystrom scored in overtime at the Coliseum and so did Ken Morrow. Mike Bossy once struck twice late in the third period to get his 50-in-50. Bryan Trottier had a five-goal night. There was Double Chili. John Tonelli scored late in a Game 5 against the Penguins and then again in overtime to save it all. The Dynasty did victory laps at Nassau Coliseum in three of their four Stanley Cup victories.
But there had never been anything like this at the Old Barn.
I’d venture to say there has never been anything like this, anywhere.
Hockey, ladies and gentlemen.
There were seconds remaining in Saturday’s pulsating Game 4 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. The Islanders were desperately attempting to preserve a 3-2 lead over the Lightning, the teams were five-on-five with Tampa Bay’s goaltender pulled while shorthanded, killing a penalty.
The game had been frantic from the start, the Islanders scoring three times within a second-period span of 12:27 to take a 3-0 lead, the Lightning scoring twice within the first 6:43 of the third, and there we were.
The Islanders played keepaway on their power play, going into a four-corners prevent offense. Finally, the puck came out. Finally, the puck was deep in the Islanders zone. Finally, Nikita Kucherov found Ryan McDonagh all alone in the left circle.
There were about four seconds to go.
Brock Nelson took a desperate lunge at McDonagh, who is having himself a great, throwback series as if it were 2014 and he were wearing Rangers Blue. McDonagh pulled a Denis Savard, eluding Nelson with a spin-o-rama. Netminder Semyon Varlamov charged out. The net was empty behind him.
McDonagh sent a backhander toward that empty net. There was about a second left. Time stood still. The deafening roar of the crowd crawled into every spectator’s throat and was swallowed up in fearful anticipation. The game was about to be tied. The game was about to go into overtime.
And then … and then … the game was over.
The game was over because Ryan Pulock, materializing out of nowhere like a superhero, somehow came across the crease and got his right glove on the puck before it could cross the goal line and then managed to swat it aside where it harmlessly spun. The Islanders pounded and surrounded No. 6 with glee and celebrated as if there were no tomorrow.
But of course, there are at least two more tomorrows coming for the Islanders, now 2-2 in the series with Game 5 set for Monday night in Tampa. And there is at least one more tomorrow for the Old Barn, which will host Game 6 on Wednesday.
History meeting the present. History becoming history of its own.
“I think everybody’s breath was kind of taken away when that puck was coming,” said Mathew Barzal, who had scored the 2-0 goal and was watching from the bench. “I thought they … I thought it was going in and then just a miraculous play by Poolie, so I’m not going to be forgetting that one.”
A Miracle on Ice.
“McDonagh made a heck of a play with the spin-o-rama, the net was open and I just tried to make myself big and take it away and I was able to [make the play],” Pulock said. “You hear the sound of the clock going and the boys jump on you. It’s a good feeling.”
“It’s playoffs. Nothing should surprise anybody, really,” said head coach Barry Trotz, whose Islanders played with verve, confidence and to their Identity in building the 3-0 lead and then settled back in after the Lightning closed to 3-2. “That’s the great thing about our game.
“We can bring you out of your seats right ’til the last minute. What a save by Poolie. That will be remembered.”
Trotz, who stands 5-foot-9, couldn’t see the madness to his right that was unfolding. So the coach looked up at the scoreboard video screen.
“Everyone was standing up and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’m not that tall,” he said. “I tried to take a peek up at the scoreboard real quick and all I saw was Nellie sliding, McDonagh turned, Varly came out to challenge and it looked like it was going in the net.
“Then obviously Poolie came through and slid across and saved the day for us.”
The coach then made a little joke.
“I would never it was never in doubt,” he said.
The final moment overshadowed what had been a fantastic game. This had pace. This had tempo. This would have been a classic befitting the Barn and its heritage, regardless.
But then came the final second. Then came history. More history at the Coliseum.
I’ve never seen anything like it.