2. John Tavares Ends the 23 Year Wait
You can say what you want about the way John Tavares decided to leave Long Island, but he was the very embodiment of a franchise player for this team that was void of that for a long time. One of the better leaders the Islanders had while on the team, he always delivered in the moments they needed it most, no different against the Panthers in double overtime of game six.
23 years of suffering led up to this moment of relief for all fans waiving the orange rally towels at Barclays Center. As said before, the last playoff series the team had won was in 1993, and the Panthers' was back in 1996 when they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, so there was extra urgency to let the streak die.
The Isles headed into game six with a 3-2 series lead off of a double-overtime winner from Alan Quine of all people, who spent seasons jumping up and down from Bridgeport and the NHL. For most of the game, they looked very sluggish and not ready to take the series for themselves. Trailing 1-0 heading into the final minutes due to a Jonathan Huberdeau goal in the first, the Islanders pulled Thomas Greiss for the extra attacker. Leddy saved what could have been a dagger of an empty net goal, and took the puck coast to coast into the Panthers' end. The Isles changed on the fly, and Tavares quietly hopped off the bench, skated straight to the goal, and tucked home a loose rebound to tie the game with 53.2 seconds to go.
Two overtimes for the second straight night is how long these teams would have to go before calling it a series. Tavares, receiving a pass from linemate Kyle Okposo decided to take matters into his own hands, firing a hard shot at a fatigued Luongo and wrapping home the rebound to put the Panthers down. Absolute bedlam broke out in Brooklyn, as said perfectly by Sportsnet broadcaster Dave Randorf who would call this the most memorable call of his career. Bedlam it sure was, and the Islanders had finally won a series.
"“It was tough to get going a little bit. (The Panthers) were doing a good job and I just tried to battle through it. You play right to the end and you never know what’s going to happen and you stay with it. That’s kind of been our season a little bit. I’m just happy to come through.”"- John Tavares
Guys like Tavares don't come around often for any team. 621 points in 669 games for New York, a great captain, and an almost Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner while representing a semi-dysfunctional organization at the time with class. Even after he left in an unpopular fashion, I am sure the 15,795 fans in attendance are still very thankful they got to witness such an electrifying moment in NY Islanders history.