When they built Madison Square Garden back in the 1960s, one reason why they put the arena floor on the fifth floor was to help keep the ice frozen with an active train station underneath the building.
Never the fastest surface, the Garden ice has gotten better after the renovations of a few years ago.
So that brings us to the Barclays Center, an arena that was not built for hockey. Not only does the building not have the state of the art refrigeration system, the arena floor is in the basement of the building with a train yard under it.
Needless to say, the surface plays like the BQE during rush hour.
Even though that sounds like a terrible thing, the Isles have used this slop as a home ice advantage, often slowing down speedier teams, especially later in games when the slush has essentially become cold water.
Playing to a 25-11-5 record this season at Barclays, the team’s chances of winning this series greatly increased after their Game 1 win in Florida, because the not only did they steal home ice back, they got the Barclays Center advantage.
“(The ice) not the best, let’s just say that,” goalie Thomas Greiss said with a laugh.
Florida’s big and fast front line slowed as the game went along. After the Panthers took the 2-0 lead and then had a goal waived off, the Isles went to work, scoring on a 5-on-3 and then down 3-1, scored two goals the second half of the second period.
That was all Greiss needed with his 36 saves on the night.
“I didn’t feel too good out there in the beginning,” Greiss said. “It was just one of those games that it took me a little to get into. After a while, I got better and better.”
In the third he stopped all seven shots and then all eight in overtime.
It gave the Islanders a chance to find their spot and eventually Thomas Hickey came through 12:31 into the first extra session.
We saw this during the regular season and now in the playoffs. This was a patented Islander comeback.
What we didn’t see was the atmosphere. With 15,795 in attendance, the fans helped drive the Isles, turning what was considered fan failure to an alive, modern hockey barn.
“Once we stepped on the ice, as far as the coaching staff and then the players came out, you could tell that the players were intense,” said coach Jack Capuano. “In a playoff series like this you’re going to need your fans to be the sixth man and that’s exactly what they were tonight. It was loud, lost my voice a little bit just because it was so loud in there. Fans were great and hopefully it’ll be the same way Wednesday night.”
There was a concern that they Isles would have left the feel of their old home back in Nassau. However, every seat was filled and the fans staying and watched the game instead of moving around the arena.
They were into it and it’s safe to say, helped will the Islanders to this win.
“I thought it was incredible,” Hickey said. “Our fans, right from the start gave us that extra boost tonight. I had goosebumps after the anthem. We fed off that. It was great seeing the orange. They brought it today. They stuck with us. It would have been easy to get discouraged but they were right there until the end.”
Now the Isles have a chance to put their foot on the Panthers throat on Wednesday. It’s not going to be easy since Florida is starting to get desperate. However, the Isles seem to want this.
And with the Barclays Center advantage behind them, they have a very good chance to move on.