Anthony Beauvillier scored 1:08 into overtime to send Nassau Coliseum into another round of bedlam and this conference final series to Tampa for a do-or-die Game 7 that will send the winner to the Stanley Cup final.
Needing a much better start than the escalated-quickly disaster of Game 5, the Isles came out with focus and purpose in a penalty-free first period. But the Lightning opened up a 1-0 lead with a goal from nonstop scorer Brayden Point with four minutes left in the period. In the second, as penalties started to be called and the teams canceled each others power plays and the Isles blew a 5-on-3, the Lightning added another from Anthony Cirelli, who made it 2-0 at 12:36.
The task looked daunting against a team that tossed shutouts to close out series in the previous two rounds, but the Islanders responded quickly. Jordan Eberle got one back just under four minutes after Cirelli’s goal, on an absolutely disgusting backhand from distance after Mathew Barzal gained the blueline with a rush through the neutral zone.
That put the Isles just a shot away going into the third period, a period where they came out strong but failed to convert a 5-on-3. Scott Mayfield got the equalizer on a bad-angle shot at 11:16, and the Isles survived a Lightning power play with just under six minutes to go.
Semyon Varlamov’s saves on that one, with Matt Martin in the box for high-sticking, were huge.
The Isles came out in overtime beating the Lightning to pucks, and it looked like the visitors still had intermission legs. Perhaps that helps explains the brainfart by Blake Coleman, who had several teammate options but put the puck on Beauvillier’s stick low in the right wing faceoff circle.
Beauvillier made no doubt, getting off a quick high shot while Andrei Vasilevskiy was still getting set.
A rain of cans and other celebratory items hit the ice from fans as the Islanders accomplished two huge things for them at once: extended this series to a Game 7, and — if that game doesn’t go their way — made the last playoff moment at the Coliseum a jubilant one.
Here’s how it ended:
CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULES, FOLKS. GAME 7 ON FRIDAY. pic.twitter.com/W9PlRbPPHW— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) June 24, 2021
Barzal on the crowd: "That was amazing. We got that first one and they just got riled up and in overtime, I've never seen anything like that. A little dangerous, but you don't see that too often so we embrace it. That's the Islander faithful." #Isles— Joe Pantorno (@JoePantorno) June 24, 2021
Physical Play, Injuries
The Islanders were back on their game in many ways, one of them being laying heavy hits on the Lightning. Several (legal) checks from Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Mayfield in particular seemed to leave a mark, but one uncalled penalty may have left lasting damage:
[Updated with additional details] Nikita Kucherov left the game after one shift, and it was unclear whether it was due to a Mayfield crosscheck to his side or an arm/shoulder issue when he checked Mathew Barzal later in the shift.
Why Mayfield’s wasn’t called is a mystery — probably something to due with the We Don’t See Things in the First Minute randomly applied officiating standard — but it will surely be a talking point between games, especially if Kucherov can’t play in Game 7 or plays while struggling. It wasn’t one among the Lightning in post-game comments, however, so that may just be an angle NBC was running with.
‘But We’ve Got to Get Another One’
Trotz: "I love this group, the character of this group. And the building, these fans. 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."— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) June 24, 2021
Safe to say, with everything on the line in Game 7 on Friday in Tampa, it’s going to be war. The winner gets to play for the Cup.
Friday could be heartbreaking or it could be just another great chapter in a wild 2021 ride. However it goes, the Islanders left the Isles faithful one more amazing moment tonight.