The 3 NY Islanders games you most wish had different outcomes in team history

New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Seven
New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Seven / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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In hockey, as in life, we wish we had do-overs, one more chance to make things right rather than wonder "what if" things had gone a different way. On Sunday, Jonny Lazarus, who covers the New York Rangers for The Hockey News, posed a question: "If you could change the outcome of one game from the history of the NHL, which game would you pick and why?"

Every team has them; for Lazarus, he feels the Blueshirts could've beaten Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final if they had won Game 7 on home ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning at MSG. Boston Bruins fans feel the legacy of this most recent era would be different if they beat the St. Louis Blues in the decisive game at TD Garden in 2019 or, perhaps more recently, their record-breaking team closed out the Florida Panthers in five games.

We're all New York Islanders fans here, so we're going to focus on Isles history. What are those gut-wrenching, stomach-punch losses that you most wish ended differently? The games that if a bounce or break went the other way, could've not only altered the course of a season, but of a franchise?

For the Isles, we will focus on three games. Three games which left you with an empty feeling. Three games that bring back all sorts of bad memories and emotions. Three games that make you wonder what could've or should've been.

Here are our top three games we wish had different outcomes in Islanders' history.

No.3 - Game 7 2015 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs Washington

The 2014-15 season was a blast. In the (scheduled) final year at the Nassau Coliseum, the team had its most exciting team in over a decade. The Islanders had missed the playoffs the previous year, but their outlook changed dramatically when GM Garth Snow acquired defenseman Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy just ahead of the start of the regular season. John Tavares was Hart Finalist, Jaroslav Halak was an All-Star in net, and the best fourth line ever was created.

Jack Capuano had his team firmly in playoff position most of the year and had a chance to lock up home ice in the first round of the playoffs in the final game of the regular season vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Isles lost in a shootout, giving the Washington Capitals home-ice advantage.

That shootout loss in the regular season finale proved costly as instead of being in front of a raucous Coliseum crowd for Game 7, the Islanders were inexplicably flat and out of sync, registering only 11 shots on goal for the game against Braden Holtby. Nevertheless, they found themselves tied after Frans Nielsen's third-period goal. However, thoughts of stealing a Game 7 on the road were dashed when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a highlight reel goal with 7:18 remaining.

Does a win there send the Islanders onto a deep playoff run? We don't know, but it would've set up a series to remember with the Metropolitan Division champion New York Rangers. It would've been the teams' first playoff series matchup in 21 years, but alas, it wasn't meant to be, and this upcoming season will mark 30 years since the cross-town rivals have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

No.2 - Game 7 1978 NHL Quarterfinals vs Toronto

There will be those that believe this next loss was a painful lesson that helped the Islanders in the long run, although in the moment it served as the first real gut punch in franchise history.

The Islanders of the early 1980s were a dynasty, one of the greatest teams in the history of professional sports. The team in the late 70s was pretty dominant too, but their core of future Hall-of-Famers couldn't turn regular-season success and individual accolades into playoff success during the decade. The Islanders won the Patrick Division for the first time in 1977-78 with a 48-17-15 record and were considerable favorites against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Quarterfinals.

The Leafs had beaten the Los Angeles Kings in the preliminary round, while the Isles had earned a bye and were waiting for them on Long Island. The home team won each of the first six games of the series setting up a decisive Game 7 at the Nassau Coliseum on April 29, 1978.

Denis Potvin scored an unassisted goal for a 1-0 lead 5:18 into the game, and things were going as planned. The Maple Leafs cooled the Isles' momentum and tied the game early in the second period. The game remained tied at 1-1 and headed into overtime, where Lanny McDonald beat Chico Resch at 4:13 to send the Isles home early. For many fans of the 1972 expansion franchise, it might have been the first time their hockey team made them cry.

The Islanders were even better the following season, registering a league-best 116 points. However, they were thwarted yet again, this time by the goaltender John Davidson and the upstart New York Rangers, losing 2-1 in Game 6 to lose the series. While losing one round short of the Stanley Cup Final and a chance at the Montreal Canadiens was bitter, there was no guarantee the Isles would win Game 7 if they won Game 6, which is why the 1978 game vs. Toronto is our pick here.

Who knows, maybe the dynasty would've started a year or two early?

Game 7 2021 Stanley Cup Semi-Finals vs Tampa Bay

This is the clear game for a generation of Islanders fans.

For the second consecutive year, and less than 12 months after they met in the Edmonton bubble, the Islanders and defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning met in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals. After being embarrassed and losing 8-0 in Game 5, the Islanders had forced the decisive game after winning Game 6 on Anthony Beauvillier's OT-winning goal that ended up being a proper send-off for the Old Barn in Uniondale.

After an even first period, Yanni Gourde scored a short-handed goal off a nifty pass from Anthony Cirelli at 1:49 of the second period to give the Lighting the lead. From there, the defending champs clamped down and played stellar in front of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped all 18 Islander shots as they desperately searched for the equalizer in the third period.

What makes this loss so painful even years later is that if the Islanders had found a way to dethrone the defending champions that night, they would've had home ice and been favored against a good but not great Montreal Canadiens team that would lose to the Lightning in five games. It was an opportunity that may never present itself again, and we knew it at the time.

While we look back fondly at the Barry Trotz era, the legacy of many of the same core players that remain on Long Island would've been forever changed by a win on that night. Instead of being Stanley Cup champions, the group now runs the risk of never getting closer to immortality than they did in 2021 in Tampa Bay. If there is one game they'd wish to have back, they'd all say this one, as it was what likely stood between them and hoisting the Stanley Cup.