The New York Islanders passionate fanbase is the best in all of sport. What ‘s extra special is the real impact the Islander crowd has on the game.
It seems the preseason negativity has only bolstered New York Islanders fans, as the Isles return to the postseason for the first time in three seasons. And the first time at the Nassau Coliseum since 2015. The Barn is as loud as it has ever been.
The hockey experts prognostications inspired both team and fan. The doubters failed to realize the power of ‘team.’ The strength of determination. The energy that 13,917 frenzied fans can provide to a group that feeds off it.
In Game 2 the Nassau Coliseum faithful did not disappoint.
It is Nassau Coliseum tradition that a crowd gathers for the pre-game skate.
Barclays destroyed that tradition. There, no one enters the lower bowl at any time without a ticket. It’s a policy that fueled fans contempt for the place. And I do hope that policy will disappear should the Isles continue this playoff run.
But back to the Coli. As in Game one, on Friday the crowd was electric and erupted when the boys hit the ice. The player’s faces indicated a seriousness about the task at hand. There was no overconfidence. No joking. It was a hard pre-game skate. There was not a momentary lapse during the drills.
Casey Cizikas stretched and shared with Jordan Eberle, ‘This is it. It’s our time.’ (lip reading is a hobby of mine).
Cal Clutterbuck went top speed from side to side, propelling himself into the boards, crushing an imaginary Phil Kessel. The fans got riled up. Almost instantaneously, a “Lets Go Islanders” chant erupted from the crowd.
Mat Barzal and Matt Martin closed out warmups with some one-timers and crowd pucks.
Fifteen minutes later the house was full. As they have since the return to Nassau, Islanders fans participate in the anthem(s). Now Angelica Salem is the modern day Joe Duerr (I still miss Joe Duerr though). Her rendition hits all the right notes with these fans and leads the NHL’s greatest karaoke night.
Casey Cizikas won the opening faceoff setting the trend in an area where the Islanders dominated all night (Crosby & Malkin 38.1%/37.5% respectively).
The initial roar came a minute in when Anders Lee dropped Aston-Reese just inside the Islander blue line. The play was mostly even throughout the first. Fans leaped from their seats with 10:46 left, as Devon Toews ripped the puck past Murray. It hit the post.
At 15:47 Jack Johnson fresh out of the box took his second ill-advised penalty, and the Islanders were back on the powerplay.
As Johnson procrastinated en route to the sin-bin, Coliseum fans watched Crosby and Malkin do what they do best; work the refs. Both put up an intense argument over the clear penalty. When the cameras returned it was game on. The Isles threatened until Anders Lee got his second phantom penalty of the series; this time on the PP.
In the history of the NHL, there has never been a player who so expertly manipulates the officials as does Sidney Crosby. As his game erodes it is arguably Crosby’s greatest skill. And it was on full display in Game two. If only that desire had translated to his play, the Pens might have had a better result.
The second started with a point-blank save by Robin Lehner. With just over 12 minutes left, Matt Martin took a Clutterbuck back door feed but was denied with a Murray side to side stop.
At 10:36, it would be an Eric Gudbranson slapshot that would start the scoring. The most impressive thing about this goal was the crowd reaction. There was no lull, no boos.
Immediately a ‘Lets Go Islanders’ reverberated throughout.
The Islanders responded accordingly.
Just three minutes later a Beau Barzay odd-man rush got the Islanders on the board to tie it at one. The aftermath resulted in a Barzal double roughing minor and the Penguins second and final powerplay. Again, the Isles pk was up to the task and the Pens failed to convert.
The crowd noise in the third was the loudest in recent history.
Around the seven minute mark, the Islanders had a faceoff in the Pens zone. During the TV timeout, the scoreboard played the locker room speech from Miracle. The Coliseum went crazy.
Barzal and Eberle showed their approval as they banged their sticks on the ice.
Just seconds later the pair would connect on the Isles second goal.
At 9:50 of the third, Patric Hornqvist was called for tripping.
The Islanders had been 0 for five on the PP to this point. With 8:22 left #12 got the PP goal and the hit song Hey Josh Bailey echoed through the arena.
By the final horn, the Penguins exposed just how frustrated they have become. After taking a gloved face mush, Scott Mayfield laughed in Malkin’s face as he left the ice.
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
Johnny Boychuk emphasized in the post-game to forget about the last two games and prepare for the next.
Should the Isles remain focused, the sky is truly the limit for this team.