In the New York Islanders final season at the Nassau Coliseum it only seems fitting that when the building begins its playoff swan song, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be the ones the Isles see across the ice.
The two teams have shared plenty of memorable moments over the years during the regular season and the postseason. It’s a rivalry that has clearly been renewed over the years since the two teams met in the playoffs in 2013 for the first time in 18 years.
And having seen one another eight times over the course of the regular season, which included six meetings in the month of February alone, there is sure to be no love loss between the Islanders and Pittsburgh. That’s sure to produce plenty of fireworks once the puck drops on Game 1 in Pittsburgh.
For two organizations with rich postseason histories, some of the most memorable moments have come against one another. In recent times the Islanders have used Pittsburgh to help springboard turnarounds in the perception of the organization.
When the New York Islanders faced Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, New York was viewed as an underdog with no chance. What occurred was one of the wildest series in modern Islanders history and one that gave the fanbase its first glimpse of hope since the early 2000s.
While the Islanders fell in six games to Pittsburgh, the series produced an excitement that had not been felt around Islanders country in a long time. The Nassau Coliseum rocked as it had never rocked before and the Islanders gave Pittsburgh a fight that had not been predicted out of the young team.
Five years later, Pittsburgh and New York put the Coliseum back in the spotlight when their first-round series in 2019 opened on Long Island. It was a four-game set that solidified Robin Lehner’s place in Islanders lore. Josh Bailey became a folk hero with his Game 1 overtime winning goal and Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle reached another level of their game.
Not to mention a raucous Nassau Coliseum during the first two games of the series before the Islanders departed for Pittsburgh with a 2-0 series lead. The sweep would be the first for the Islanders since the 1983 Stanely Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers.
More importantly for the franchise, it announced that they were a team to be reckoned with even after the departure of former captain John Tavares.
Even outside of recent history, the Islanders and Pittsburgh have produced moments that have become iconic for the Islanders organization. In 1975 they shocked the hockey world after clawing back from an 0-3 series deficit to defeat Pittsburgh in seven games.
The 1974-75 Islanders remain one of just four teams to ever win four straight games after being down 3-0 in a series.
The New York Islanders shocked them again 18 years later when the Islanders upset Pittsburgh in 1993, ending their quest for a third straight cup. David Volek famously scored the overtime winner in Game 7 at 5:16 of the extra period.
Again the Islanders serving as the underdog to the favored Pittsburgh Penguins.
All this time later, Pittsburgh and New York will get one more go at it with the Nassau Coliseum getting to serve as the main stage. And despite a strong start to the shortened 2021 season, a rough ending to it has the Islanders as the underdog once again.
There will be no surprises when it comes to how the two teams will play one another this time around. The shortened season forced teams to only play opponents within their division, and the Islanders and Pittsburgh have become quite acquainted with each other.
“The foundation is there no matter who plays who,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said on Monday. “You’re going to have teams play potentially 15 times against each other. In some ways, it’s Groundhog Day. In other ways, you’re just putting kindling under the fire.”
That’s poised to mean that one final memorable showdown is set to take place.