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Islanders, Rangers Close Door on Rivalry at Nassau Coliseum in Fitting Way

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New York Islanders Nassau Coliseum
Photo Credit: Allan Kreda

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — It’s a rivalry that never seems to disappoint in one way or another, and its time at the Nassau Coliseum has likely come to an end. On Saturday, the New York Islanders and New York Rangers played what will likely amount to their final game against one another at the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike.

On the ice, It was a fitting ending for a building that has seen its fair share of battles between New York’s two hockey teams. The Islanders not only came away with a momentous win, but they punched their ticket to the playoffs while their goaltender Semyon Varlamov set a new franchise shutout record.

And the Islanders played exactly how head coach Barry Trotz wanted them to play, especially under the circumstances of the evening.

“I think for me, I look around that room and I see Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson and (Cal) Clutterbuck and guys that have really cut their teeth in this building,” Trotz said. “The rivalry, because of the proximity, because it’s the Rangers and the Islanders, there’s no love loss. I thought it would be appropriate that we came with a really solid effort the last meeting in this building.

“I think this building has some personality and I think it’s fitting that the last game against the Rangers, which is your rivalry, is that you get a victory in this building. I thought it was important to that group of players who think about this building as home.”

The Islanders and Rangers played four times at Nassau Coliseum during the truncated season in front of a limited capacity crowd. There were 1,400 fans on hand Saturday night to see the Islanders and Rangers square off in a building the Islanders called home from 1972-2015 and then again beginning in 2018.

Considering the implications of the game, the tone of the Nassau Coliseum felt more scaled-down than it would under normal circumstances. The fans inside the building did their best to create an atmosphere that matched the importance of the game.

The more intimate crowd created a unique atmosphere that seemed fitting for the unusual year that it has been. Fans chanted back and forth at one another and the more personalized jabs at players on the ice were much more audible with the small crowd on hand.

“It’s a playoff-type atmosphere every time we play them. You know the crowd is in it,” Nick Leddy said before the win. “A little bit extra because it’s the Rangers and you got a little bit on each side in the building.”

The rivalry between the Islanders and Rangers has worked out better for the Long Island-based team than the one from Manhattan. The Islanders finish the year 6-2-0 against the Rangers, with three of those wins coming on Coliseum ice.

Varlamov has also shut out the Blue Shirts four times this year. All of that is just part of the latest chapter of the Islanders rivalry with the Rangers, one which is coming to a close.

“It’s such a great rivalry,” Josh Bailey said after the win. “I’m sure with myself personally and all the guys that got a chance to be part of that rivalry, our fan most importantly got to enjoy it over the years here. Close this chapter and I’m sure there will be other stories to write at the new arena, but I think for now we’re just happy to clinch.”

While the likelihood of the Islanders and Rangers playing again at Nassau Coliseum is slim, one Rangers forward wasn’t ready to say that Saturday was it.

“Never say never. They said that a few years ago,” Ryan Strome said.

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