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New York Islanders

Brocktober: Nelson’s Late third-period Goal Gives Islanders Game 3 Win



Islanders celebrate Brock Nelson's game-winning goal in Game 3

Since Wednesday’s last-second loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has said he likes his team’s process and the Eastern Conference Final was close to changing direction.

At least for one game, the Trotz’s words were prophetic.

Brock Nelson’s goal with 3:25 left in the third period delivered the Islanders a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay in Game 3.

The Islanders, who blew a two-goal lead earlier in the third, are now down 2-1 in the series.

“I’ve been preaching about this group, this group is special with the resiliency,” Trotz said after Friday night’s game. “This is our fourth series, not our third. We’ve had to battle through double overtime losses, a lot of different things. Our first game getting into this bubble and losing the way we did.

“That says a lot for this group to be able to mentally park it and focus on the moment.”

Off a Tampa Bay defensive zone turnover forced by Nelson, Josh Bailey set the play up to Anthony Beauvillier who had a pass initially blocked before flung a blind pass to Nelson on the right for a shot that beat Andrei Vasilevskiy on the far side.

“It’s nice to get a bounce back win,” Nelson said. “A lot of guys are big for us, (Semyon Varlamov) was big. Obviously on that play Beau made a nice play. … It’s nice to get that win.”

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In a back-and-forth game with plenty of momentum swings, the Islanders finished 0-for-2 on the power play and failed to kill off their one penalty, but Varlamov was strong in net otherwise. He made 34 saves on 37 shots overall, including six high danger shots.

The teams traded four goals in the third period, but the Islanders got the final two to win their first Conference Final game in 27 years.

Leading the way with two points, Nelson’s effort could not be understated after what he encountered in Game 2, according to Trotz. It was Nelson who took the brunt of Alex Killorn’s boarding penalty that led to a one-game suspension for the Tampa Bay forward.

“Brock’s a little bit, I would say, under-the-radar to a lot of people,” Trotz said. “He’s grown so much over the years and he’s battling after that last game. It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t surprised, knowing Brock. He just so determined and said, ‘I’m going to bounce back.’ He’s resilient so I really liked his game.”

The Islanders got ahead a little more than halfway in the first period on Cal Clutterbuck’s second goal of the playoffs. After Jean-Gabriel Pageau missed a golden chance at the side of the net, Vasilevskiy fumbled with his right leg pad as a strap came loose.

As the puck remained in the zone, it bounced to Clutterbuck and he buried it high blocker side.

But similar to Game 2, Tampa Bay answered back quickly with a Mikhail Sergachev goal at 16:31. Yannni Gourde slid the puck low past Clutterbuck and the defenseman jumped into the play and roofed a backhander over Varlamov’s glove.

Shortly after a missed power play in the second, Mathew Barzal grabbed the puck along the nearside wall and fed Pageau in the slot. Adam Pelech skated into the left circle and grabbed a Pageau pass and ripped a shot by Vasilevskiy’s glove at 11:50.

With the goal, Pelech became the 17th different goal-scorer this postseason for the Islanders. Only the 1983 playoff team (18 different scorers) had more.

Exactly two minutes later, Beauvillier padded the lead on a play all set up by Nelson.

Nelson skated in the slot and dragged to his backhand but instead of shooting he circled behind the net. As he turned around he fired a pass in front of the crease to Beauvillier, who notched his ninth goal of the playoffs.

Two and a half minutes into the third, Tampa Bay answered on the power play. Jordan Eberle took a holding penalty in the offensive zone, which led to Ondrej Palat’s goal. Tyler Johnson knotted things up when he redirected a point shot with 7:56 left.

But it was Nelson who answered back with a goal and his second point of the night.

Vengeance Thy Name is Brock! Nelson Goal Proves Extra Satisfying in Game 3 Win | NYHN+

“Obviously it’s disappointing when you have a lead going into the third, chance to win a game and get back in the series and you give it up,” Nelson said. “But we stuck with it and stayed the course and kinda got right back on it.”

Pageau sealed the win with an empty-netter wit 36 seconds left. He was whacked on the play by Nikita Kucherov, leading to pushing and shoving after the whistle. On the ensuing draw, Matt Martin and Barclay Goodrow dropped the gloves.

“I think he’s a competitor and I think he was trying to get his stick on puck and he got the back of my leg, so it wasn’t too close,” Pageau said of Kucherov. “We’re going to battle everyone, everyone on our team tonight competed for a full 60 (minutes).”

Pageau picked up two points after filling centering in Casey Cizikas’s usual spot. After the game, Trotz said it’s still unclear if Cizikas will suit up for the next game.

Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m as the New York Islanders look to even up the series.

“I didn’t like that we took that early penalty, give Tampa some momentum in the third and then they get it tied up on a tip. We sorta got our composure back and playing again,” Trotz said. “And that’s what I liked about our group.”

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New York Islanders

Bruce Bennett Remained in Moment While Capturing Islanders Conference Finals Run



Bruce Bennett captures handshake line

When the New York Islanders playoff run shifted to Edmonton there was only one person who regularly covered the team inside the bubble with them. It wasn’t the regular beat writers who often traveled with the team, nor was it the broadcast crew that covers all 82 of their games, plus the postseason.

No, it wasn’t any of them. Rather, it was hockey photographer and Getty’s director of hockey photography Bruce Bennett, who in four decades of shooting hockey has seen just about everything.

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“Being the only Long Island guy in the bubble is kind of bizarre,” Bennett told NYI Hockey Now during a Zoom interview from his hotel room in Edmonton. “But, to succeed in this business you need to put that wall up. Whether you’re blocking the fans out or you’re blocking the noise in the building out, which obviously we don’t have to do here. I have to block out that Long Islander in me and go ‘it’s just about you and the game and capturing the scene.'”

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - SEPTEMBER 09: Pat Maroon #14 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is checked into the goal as Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders tends net during the second period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on September 09, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The laser-focused approach that Bennett brings to his work is something that even Islanders head coach Barry Trotz would admire, and it’s what has made him one of the best to capture some of the Islanders’ and hockey’s biggest moments. Bennett is in the middle of his 45th season photographing hockey and the 40th Stanley Cup Final he will have covered.

This one will certainly be the most unique one he’s had to work.

Bennett is just one of only a handful of photographers capturing one of the most historic Stanley Cup playoffs that the NHL has put on. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bennett has been forced to snap pictures from the last row of Rogers Place because he not permitted inside the more secure areas of the bubble that the league has created around the unique 2020 postseason.

That means Bennett’s usual spot on the glass is off-limits for him.

Similar to what the players experienced, Bennett went through his own adjustment period when he began shooting games on Aug 24. Bennett arrived in the Edmonton 14 days earlier but was forced to quarantine in adherence to Canadian restrictions for anyone entering the country.

“I guess I’ve come to the realization that with that crowd going crazy that not only gets the players into the game, but it gets my head into the game more,” Bennett said. “It’s like a bubble hockey game where you’re outside looking in. The distance is a big thing. Shooting from so far away and seeing the tops of heads is odd, instead of seeing faces.”

Bennett did get a little bit of a break when the Islanders entered the Edmonton bubble for the Eastern Conference Finals.

Having that knowledge of the players and their movements made Bennett’s job easier. Similar to how a linemate gets to know a teammate’s pattern, it was the same for Bennett when he was shooting pictures.

“Where there most likely to go on the ice, where there passes are most likely to go,” Bennett explained. “Having a little bit of familiarity and being the hometown Long Island boy, trying to take the fan out of it, that’s definitely helped. It piqued my interest and getting the razzing from the two other photographers who are beside me when the Islanders give up a goal. It’s all good natured fun, but it’s definitely got my head back in the game.”

Bennett’s connection with the Islanders runs deeper than just the visits to Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center to photograph the Islanders. Bennett served as the team’s official photographer and has captured some of the most iconic images in the team’s history.

His photo of Bobby Nystrom following his Stanley Cup Winning goal from 1980 remains one of Bennett’s top memories

Bobby Nystrom

Even with that connection to the Islanders, Bennett maintained an emotional distance from what was transpiring on the ice with the Islanders. New York had been competing in the conference finals for the first time since 1993.

“I remove myself from the situation. It’s the only way to do this job,” Bennett said. “The only positive is my 95-year-old mother back in East Meadow gets her Newsday everyday and she’s clipping out my pictures with the photo credits on them. I guess that’s what I’m shooting for. … I’m very close to (the Islanders), but when I get into that arena it’s really just about the best images.”

And getting that iconic image, as Bennett has done so many times, is a simple formula for the veteran photographer. For him, it’s just about remaining focused during the course of the game and outworking the photographers around him.

Bennett does the homework before going into any game he covers. He reads newspapers, checks the hockey websites and looks at the media notes. “I’m prepared and I’m hoping when I get to a game they’re not prepared,” Bennett said.

“For us, you have to be in the game,” Bennett said. “It’s a little bit of a formula. A goalie save. A hard hit, jubilation, dejection and then you run back through it. Some creative images. Some that are off center, white ice and player on the side of the image. There is a little bit of a formulaic progression that you go through during a game.”

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New York Islanders

Islanders Fans Give Team Warm Welcome Following Surprising Postseason Run



Islanders fans

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — For a moment, standing in the parking lot of Republic Airport you would have sworn that you were at the Nassau Coliseum.

Fans walked about in New York Islanders jerseys and chanting “Let’s Go Islanders!” Motorists in their cars leaned on the horn to the same tune. That was the way Islanders fans welcomed the team back to Long Island on Friday afternoon following their Game 6 elimination loss to Tampa Bay the night before.

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What started as a post on social media about trying to welcome the Islanders home after a month and a half in the NHL’s playoff bubble, led to a sizable crowd waiting just outside the airport gates to greet the team.

“They played with a lot of heart,” Islanders fan Rich Alonzo said. “It was just an amazing thing to see how far this team has come over the 30 years of my life and just the effort they gave. They gave it their all and this is what I could do to give back to them. I’d do anything I can for this team.”

The Islanders charter flight from Edmonton landed on Long Island just after 4:15 p.m. The players disembarked to rousing cheers from the fans that tracked to the small Long Island airport, located less than 15 miles away from the Nassau Coliseum.

One fan NYI Hockey Now spoke with made the trip all the way from Patchogue in eastern Long Island. Another had left school early so he could get to Farmingdale in time to welcome the Islanders home.

Fans carried flags and homemade posters and waved them as the players got off the plane. Chants of “Varly” and “Lou” echoed around the area on several occasions, as did chants for Islanders coach Barry Trotz and star forward Mat Barzal.

“Just how hard the boys worked, they deserve a good welcome home,” Nick Wolf said. “Especially for everything they sacrificed to give us some more Islanders hockey this season. They played amazing. It’s the least we could do.”

For a number of fans on hand on Friday, this year had been the first time they had seen the Islanders go as far as they did. The Islanders hadn’t reached the Eastern Conference Finals since 1993.

So for fans like 19-year-old Taylor Hackal and her 17-year-old sister Brooke, it had been a season like no other.

“I think it’s so cool for us to be a part of it and to be young fans,” Taylor Hackal said while holding a Fathead cutout of Jean-Gabriel Pageau. “Moving forward and as we grow up we can always remember this as one of the best seasons that they’ve had. I think it’s really great.”

It was a similar feel that Anthony Galanoudis expressed.

“I was bord in 1995, so this is the deepest I’ve seen them make it,” Galanoudis said. “A lot of young fans here that missed the glory days, the dynasty days. This is our first taste of success and ever since Lou and Trotz came along I think it’s here to stay.”

Several of the Islanders waved to the fans as the got off the plane. Cal Clutterbuck motioned to the crowd several times.

And Pageau thanked Islanders fans for their support in a tweet he sent out while sitting on the bus at Republic Airport.

That surely was to the delight of Brooke Hackal, who called the addition of the centerman one of her top moments this season.

“We were automatically obsessed with him,” Brooke Hackal said. “He’s one of our best players and I think just seeing him be so successful in this playoff series is just really exciting. Looking forward to the future.”

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New York Islanders

Arnold: Islanders Have Plenty to be Proud of Following Postseason Run



New York Islanders handshake line

Even 2,400 miles away, Anders Lee’s emotions were palpable as he addressed the media after the New York Islanders 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

It was the farthest Lee had gone in his career in the playoffs and it was the most significant step the franchise he captains has taken in 27 years. Ironic, when you think about, considering that it’s the same as the number on the back of his jersey.

“I can’t speak volumes more about this group and our guys,” an emotional Lee said. “The pride we take in going out there every night and playing.”

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