For the first time since 2015, the New York Islanders played a game at Nassau Coliseum that mattered, and they came out on top thanks to longtime Coliseum hero Casey Cizikas’ game-winning goal midway through the third period.
Cizikas’ winner, on a great pinch around the net by Ryan Pulock (more on that decision below), completed the reversal of an 0-2 opening deficit and set up a raucous finish to the evening as the Isles held on for a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Safe to say, all the fans, players, coaches and media who looked forward to this return got exactly what they hoped for.
[Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsica | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]
With this being the first game at the “refurbished” Coliseum, we’ll let the players tell the story:
After a scoreless first period, the captain, Anders Lee, fittingly got the Isles on the board at 11:59 of the second with a goal that was originally waived off, but restored after video review. That was much needed after the Blue Jackets had scored two goals in a 1:47 span just a few minutes prior:
“We had a really good response after they had a two-goal push. From the get-go the crowd was incredible. That kind of energy wins you hockey games. ... You get the feels.”
"From the get-go the crowd was incredible. That kind of energy wins you hockey games." #LGI pic.twitter.com/PCJL9ODNRF— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 2, 2018
Anthony Beauvillier made his Coliseum debut and scored the second Islanders goal, tying the game at 2-2 three minutes after Lee’s goal: “It’s so fun. The atmosphere here, the fans, it’s just hard to play here for the opposing team.”
What did @titobeauvi21 think of tonight's game?— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 2, 2018
"It felt like home." pic.twitter.com/7P1LxNV6FN
And then you have the winner, the key checking line center Casey Cizikas, who produces from that position better than most of his peers:
“It was crazy. From driving home from practice this morning, seeing people in the parking lot at 11:30, to coming back for warmups...we fed off that.”
"I think I was more tired from screaming on the celebration than I was from the actual shift." @zeeker with the game winner! #Isles pic.twitter.com/2mmfJVrnh1— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 2, 2018
With bonus Butch Goring-Brendan Burke interplay, Burke explaining in live play to answer Butch’s question about “why [Pulock] didn’t shoot that” with Cizikas positioned in front of the net:
.@NYIslanders win at the Coliseum! @zeeker11 with the game-winner! #Isles pic.twitter.com/A17e34ZQXI— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) December 2, 2018
And Barry Trotz, whose former team faced the Isles in a bloody seven-game series to close out the old Coliseum in 2015, was always excited for this return:
“It was fantastic. Look at how much fun they’re having. They’re having fun before the game, they don’t want to leave. It was loud. It was a fantastic atmosphere.”
“You can tell there’s a lot of passion. They are extremely passionate about their team and this franchise. Hopefully we can bring it back to where we want to be. I like where we’re going."— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 2, 2018
Trotz post-game: pic.twitter.com/OT3iLlhYVn
Thomas Greiss made 28 saves, including 16 in the third period alone to protect the win. Another good night for him in a season that has been very strong so far.
The Blue Jackets knew the Islanders were playing a solid game even after they’d put them down 2-0. The response was reaffirming for the identity of this Isles team. With the Coliseum crowd providing the energy, the home team came through. Trotz said they’re “getting so resilient.”
The venue — and the people who hold it dear — sure helped.
Newsday's Late Sunday Back Page— Joe Manniello (@joe_manniello) December 2, 2018
Isles treat fans to electric win in return to Coliseum
PLUS: It's a deal! Cano, Diaz to Mets, pending physicals#Isles #mets pic.twitter.com/F58cTImMGZ
Alas, Tuesday night they’ll face the Jets back at Barclays Center, which has become the stepchild venue. Once upon a time there was the “Rangers hangover,” a comedown and disappointing follow-up after Islanders teams played high-emotion games against their cross-town rivals. Will there be a Coliseum hangover Tuesday night?