The New York Islanders overcame the odds in Game 6, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in a thrilling overtime victory.
Anthony Beauvillier was the overtime hero, forcing a turnover in the Lightning zone and beating Andrei Vasilevskiy glove side to send Nassau Coliseum into a frenzy.
“It feels amazing, to be honest, going into OT the building smelled like cigarettes, and now it smells like beers,” said Beauvillier on his game-winning goal in overtime. Whether you loved it or hated it, the fans at Nassau Coliseum rained beer cans on the Islanders’ ice as the team was celebrating their Game 6 victory.
Now, Barry Trotz and Co. will head back to Tampa Bay just one win away from the Stanley Cup Final. Let’s take a look at what got them there in Game 6:
The Islanders have always been a resilient group. In fact, they have yet to lead after the first period in all 18 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs thus far.
“You’re down 2-0 in Game 6. It doesn’t take much to mentally stay in it and be excited,” Mathew Barzal said. “Game 6 at home, in a tough spot, but we’re a resilient group and knew there was a lot of time left. (from, ‘Islanders Rally Gives Nassau Coliseum Another Signature Moment in Final Season,’ NYIHockeyNow, 06/24/2021).
The “bend, don’t break” mentality really resonates with this team. Not even two minutes after Anthony Cirelli put the Lightning up 2-0, Jordan Eberle responded with a backhanded snipe, cutting Tampa Bay’s lead back down to one.
“I felt we needed it,” Trotz said of Eberle’s goal. “Just getting back. The first period we played really well and they ended up scoring… the way we were playing, we were going to be fine.”
The second period was the best period of the game for the Islanders, outshooting their opponent 11-9, then followed up with a similar third period that saw Scott Mayfield score on what had to be a perfect shot.
The pesky Islanders continue not to fear playing from behind – they wear down their opponents and win close games with 18 committed skaters ready to grind out a win. It was a formula for success that saw the Isles head to overtime, where Trotz would keep his team grounded between periods giving the room a simple message to come away with a win.
“I just said stick to the process. Stick to what we’re doing,” Trotz said. “These are great moments. Just manage the puck, do all the things we’ve been doing for the first three periods and make sure we’re playing on our toes.”
Barzal Finds Another Level
Just about everyone in the lineup had a horrible game in Monday’s Game 5 in Tampa Bay. Perhaps Barzal had it the worst, getting ejected after the second period for cross-checking Jan Ruuta in the face. He would later receive a $5,000 fine from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
Cleared to play in Game 6 on home ice, the Islanders needed Barzal to be their best player, and he was by a long shot. He ended the night with 16:59 time on ice, won six of eight faceoff draws, and assisted on the two goals that got the Isles into overtime.
“I thought that was Mat’s best game of the series,” said Trotz of Barzal in Game 6. “He used his skillset and used all 200 feet of ice. He was a factor.”
Barzal had Lightning defenders keeping their heads on a swivel, driving the offense for the Islanders and creating opportunities almost every shift on the ice.
The fans at the Coliseum were probably the loudest they’ve ever been in what could have been the last game ever played at the Barn. As they’ve been doing since the second round of the playoffs, the Islanders fans got the night started with 12,000 strong singing the national anthem.
The crowd didn’t let up there, as there was a hoot and a holler for every hit, every save, and on almost every shift. They even had a few choice words for some of the opposition, but you can browse Twitter for that.
“[This game will] be up there with one of the best because of the situation,” Trotz said. “The group that is playing right now, I love this group. This building and what it’s meant to a number of players but probably more than anything, our fans. These are great moments.”
Beauvillier’s overtime-winning goal will likely be the most memorable moment from Game 6, not for the magnitude of the goal alone, but the reaction from the fanbase as well.
Beauvillier sealed the deal and the crowd popped, lasting a long while. As the Islanders were celebrating the OT winner, the fans took it to another level, throwing a plethora of beer cans on the ice in celebration. Not everyone agreed with the sentiment, but Barzal didn’t seem to mind.
“That was amazing, we got that first one, they got riled up,” Barzal said about the fans. “I’ve never seen anything like that, a little dangerous but that’s the Islanders’ fan base. They get excited, it was good stuff.”
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Now, the Islanders head back to Tampa Bay in a best-of-one after burning the Game 5 tape, coming up big in Game 6, and forcing a Game 7 for a chance to move onto the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning are looking to clinch a Cup Final berth for the second year in a row, and typically, they’re pretty good at home. The Islanders, however, are no stranger to taking advantage of a big moment, and they know how to make a little magic of their own.
“That’s the magic of playoff hockey and the magic of being in the moment,” said Trotz. “You have to recognize those moments and the guys do that.”
Want more Islanders content? Check out the Nassaumen Hockey Podcast, hosted by The Hockey Writers authors James Nichols and Jon Zella. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts!
James is a THW New York Islanders writer and podcast host of Nassaumen Hockey Podcast. A trusted source for Islanders content for many years at THW, James is passionate about keeping Islander fans up to date on the latest in Islanders news. Other content contributions also include his Co-Editor-in-Chief status for NYIslesBlog.com. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow James on Twitter.