Sports

This Islanders team will live on forever no matter what

Five minutes later, 10 minutes later, the throng was still in force, celebrating, chanting, still soaking up yet another spectacular victory at the Coliseum for the Islanders, who, just like their fans are not at all ready for their historic Barn to become history.

“Let’s Go Islanders!” they chanted deep into the night and long after Anthony Beauvillier’s goal at 1:08 of overtime propelled his team to a 3-2 Game 6 victory and into Game 7 of the semifinals Friday night in Tampa.

“Honestly, I kind of blacked out a little bit,” said Beauvillier, who hopped on a Blake Coleman turnover and whistled one by Andrei Vasilevskiy from the slot. “I was just so happy, everybody jumped on me and was screaming.

“It was obviously an amazing feeling. I was so happy.”

Beer cans came flying out onto the ice in celebration as the Islanders made their way to the room. Under other circumstances that would be frowned upon. Under these circumstances, the players luxuriated in the peculiar and particular toasts from the crowd.

The banners that hang over the ice surface evoke memories of great feats and great games in the beloved building that opened for the inaugural 1972-73 season. But just about all of the great moments were produced by the people whose names and numbers hang in honor over the ice surface.

But this group and these players, they are not only intent on making memories of their own that will last a lifetime, they are doing it. When the final chapter of the good book is written, it will feature Ryan Pulock and Beauvillier just as surely as Bobby Nystrom and John Tonelli.

The Islanders celebrate their Game 6 win.
The Islanders celebrate their Game 6 win.
Getty Images

This is not to equate this group with the Dynasty. Not at all. But there is context to be considered and the context of this stirring victory is that the Islanders rallied to overcome a 2-0 second-period deficit by getting one back before the end of the period and then another midway through the third period to send it to overtime.

The Dynasty was born with a Game 6 overtime victory, Nystrom at 7:11 of the 1980 finals against Philadelphia. It was enabled and perpetuated by one overtime triumph after another, the two in Boston to open the 1980 quarters, the one in Game 5 against Pittsburgh.

And now this … now this four days after Ryan Pulock’s save to deny Ryan McDonagh put a lid on Game 4. It is no wonder that no one wants to let go of this magical hockey place.

The goal that brought the Islanders back into it came off the stick of Jordan Eberle, the sharpshooter who hadn’t scored in the last six games and hadn’t added much of value through this series. But now, down 2-0, having failed on a power play that included 1:18 of five-on-three, Eberle drove to the slot and whipped a backhand past Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 2-1 and bring a mournful audience back to life.

Anthony Beauvillier celebrates his game-winning goal for the Islanders.
Anthony Beauvillier celebrates his game-winning goal for the Islanders.
Corey Sipkin

Still 2-1, it was Scott Mayfield — whose unpenalized cross-check to Nikita Kucherov’s ribs on the game’s second shift ended No. 86’s night — who picked the top short-side corner at 11:16 of the third period to tie the score and create delirium.

The Islanders never quit. They never give up. They had allowed 12 straight goals since the start of the third period of Game 4 by the time it became 2-0, and that did not take a bite out of them. They kept coming, pounding away, taking pieces of flesh on every hit, remaining in their structure and keeping their cool when just about everyone in the stands was losing his or her head. Hey, maybe one was even heaved onto the ice when it was over.

Mat Barzal had a tantalizing, captivating game. Semyon Varlamov locked the door. And the Islanders kept coming, kept battling, kept scratching for the right to play one more game. One more game against the champs, who have gone 12-0 following defeats over the last two playoff seasons but have not once faced elimination.

New York Post back page for Thursday, June 24.
NYP

But the Lightning will on Friday just like the Islanders. Eight-nothing seems like it happened when Bill Stewart or Scott Gordon was behind the bench, doesn’t it?

“You have a vision of how a series will go but it never plays out like you think it will,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s the weirdest thing, but that’s the magic of playoff hockey and the magic of being in the moment.

“The moment is right in front of you all the time. You just have to recognize the moments.”

The Islanders recognized the moment and then the seized it. If this represented The Last Dance at the Barn, the moment will live forever.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s stay in the moment.

Because there is still one game to go.

At least one game to go.

The Stanley Cup final beckons.

nypost.com

New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates NYPost.com, the celebrity gossip site PageSix.com and the entertainment site Decider.com.

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