The theme at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night was “party like it’s 1993” because it had been 28 years since the Islanders were able to celebrate a playoff series win at “The Barn”. In 2016, Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers in game six of the of the opening round to clinch the series, but that was at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. You have to go back to April 28th, 1993 when the Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 in game six of that series to find the last time Islanders Country witnesses handshakes following an Islanders playoff clincher at Nassau Coliseum.
That was until Wednesday night when they finished off the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 in game six of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in front of 9,000 fans at Nassau Coliseum.
“There are moments that you’re going to enjoy,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. “This is one of those moments that you bank in your memory bank when you’re finished with your career. Our fans were fantastic. It was loud. They were into it. We were into it. Without them, I don’t know if we would have pulled this off…honestly. They gave us a sense of we gotta get this done for everybody.”
Islanders vs Penguins (Islanders win series 4-2)
Game 1: Sunday May 16th…Islanders 4 Penguins 3 (OT)
Game 2: Tuesday May 18th…Penguins 2 Islanders 1
Game 3: Thursday May 20th…Penguins 5 Islanders 4
Game 4: Saturday May 22nd…Islanders 4 Penguins 1
Game 5: Monday May 24th…Islanders 3 Penguins 2 (2 OT)
Game 6: Wednesday May 26th…Islanders 5 Penguins 3
“The fans gave us a boost,” said Islanders forward Brock Nelson who scored two goals. “They were fired up. They were rowdy. They were loud. It’s awesome having them back and we just wanted to do it and win that one for them.”
With the series win, the Islanders extend their stay at Nassau Coliseum, something they could not do in 2015 when they lost in the opening round of the playoffs the Barry Trotz-coached Washington Capitals in seven games. The Islanders are moving to their new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park for next season so they are hoping to create a few more special memories during this final post-season run at “The Barn”.
And wrapping up the first round on home ice certainly tugs at the heart strings of Islanders Country.
“It means a lot,” said Trotz. “It’s about moments. This place has a great history. This is a good moment. This is a good moment for that group in there. This is a good moment for the guys who have played in this building a lot. This is a good moment for the young guys who are part of the Islanders…everybody from (Oliver) Wahlstrom to (Mat) Barzal to (Anthony) Beauvillier and having success and trying to create hopefully another legacy.”
Last season, the Islanders made a run to the Eastern Conference Final, but that run took place in the bubble. When this season started, the Islanders played in an empty Nassau Coliseum until it was opened in March to 1,400 fans (10% of capacity). That number increased to 6,800 fans for games three and four and then it was 9,000 for game six. It wasn’t a full house, but it sure felt like the old days…not just the current full capacity of 13,917 but also like back in the day with crowds of 15,000 and 16,000.
“It’s awesome,” said Nelson. “It’s a special place with lots of history in this building. There were probably quite a few fans here (Wednesday night) that witnessed the dynasty back in the 80’s and know what that feels like. It was fun to get it done tonight in front of them. It’s just one step. We want to try and make some history of our own here and put a nice run together at the Coli.”
The next step in that run will be round two against the Boston Bruins. That series is expected to begin on Saturday in Boston.