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New York Islanders

Season Over: Islanders Playoff Run Ends in Game 6 OT Loss



The New York Islanders Staved off the Tampa Bay Lightning through the first two periods and survived a double minor penalty that went into overtime, but in the end the Islanders couldn’t force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Anthony Cirelli scored 13:18 into overtime to send the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final and end the New York Islanders season in a 2-1 loss. The 2019-20 season marked the Islanders’ best year since their run to the conference finals in 1993, which also shocked the hockey world.

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“It’s a special group in our room,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “Until that very last minute it’s just every single one of us believed in each other. And what we were doing and the road we were on. Obviously we come up short, but there is just a huge sense of pride right now in every single one of those guys.”

Cirelli’s game-winning goal came off a pass from Barclay Goodrow behind the net. The shot from right in front went off the left post and then glided along the goal line, and went in off Semyon Varlamov’s pad.

Thursday’s game was the second consecutive contest that New York and Tampa played that needed to be solved in overtime. On Tuesday, the Islanders gutted out a 2-1 win in double overtime.

Islanders coach Barry Trotz opted to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen with blue line mainstay Adam Pelech unavailable for Game 6. Trotz revealed after the game that Pelech had been injured in Game 5 early on played through the injury on adrenaline.

Pelech’s absence was felt on the Islanders’ blue line on Thursday. New York struggled for the better part of the first 40 minutes.

Tampa finished the first period outshooting the Islanders 17-6 and out attempting them 37-17. The second period wasn’t much better for the Islanders as they were again outshot, 10-6.

Game 6 was another goaltending duel between Varlamov and Tampa Bay starter Andrei Vasilevskiy. Varlamov made 46 saves, which included stopping a barrage of shots through the first 40 minutes. Vasilevskiy didn’t see nearly as many pucks, but finished the night with 26 saves.

“He’s a stud,” Devon Toews said in reference to Varlamov’s play. “The last few nights I think we’ve given up a few more shots than we kind of wanted to. … The saves he’s making in big moments is huge. It just keeps us going, it re-energizes us and we can see that he’s battling there for us. We’re just trying to battle in front of him.”

Vasilevskiy’s biggest stop came in the overtime period with the Islanders on the penalty kill. Brock Nelson forced a neutral zone turnover and got a shorthanded breakaway. The Tampa netminder turned away the potentially game-ending shot.

“When Brock stole the puck I thought (it) was only fitting,” Trotz said. “We’d been battling through the penalties and these different situations. I thought it was going to be our time to get it to Game 7. Unfortunately, their goaltender is good.

“They have a great team.”

The Islanders found the back of the net first on Thursday. Devon Toews scored on a wraparound 4:15 into the first period after Anders Lee found the Isles’ defenseman down low.

Toews took the puck behind the net and put it past Vasilevskiy, who was caught out of position.

However, the tide quickly turned for New York and Tampa took control of the game.

The lead last just over two minutes before Tampa Bay answered back with a goal of their own. Varlamov stopped a shot from the point, but Victor Hedman got to the rebound undetected and scored at 6:28.

It was the fourth game that Tampa Bay has responded with a goal within four minutes of the Islanders scoring.

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New York Islanders

Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice



Johnny Boychuk

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — There was a familiar face on the ice at Northwell Ice Center. Johnny Boychuk helped out the New York Islanders coaching staff during Saturday’s practice as the team prepared for Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Boychuk ended his 13 year NHL career in November due to an eye injury and was placed on LTIR at the start of this season. Saturday was not Boychuk’s first time on the ice for practice, having worked with the taxi squad players and he had been on the ice at times during training camp.

Boychuk has been seen around the organization publically several times this week. On Monday, the MSG broadcast caught Boychuk sitting next to Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello in a suite at Nassau Coliseum.

His continued presence around the Islanders organization has been a welcomed one by the rest of the team.

“It’s great for us. We love Johnny,” Josh Bailey said after practice. “We’ll take him as much as we can get him. It would have been tough to just more or less go cold turkey and not see him. He’s been such a big part of our dressing room for a long time. To get to have him out on the ice with us and to see him on a daily basis has been really great.”

Additionally, Boychuk had been skating with Mathew Barzal while he and the team sorted out his new contract the first week of training camp.

Josh Bailey became the first Islander to deal head-on with a COVID-related issue this season.

The veteran forward missed a day of practice this week and was briefly on the COVID-protocol list before returning to the lineup the following day. Bailey, along with the rest of the team, has been adhering to the COVID protocols, but potentially came into contact with the virus after his youngest son’s teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

A few days later when Bailey went to check on his son he noticed that he sounded a little sick and had a bit of a cough, the Islanders forward said. They had him tested and it came back positive for the virus.

The result ended up being a false positive and Bailey’s son tested negative twice over the following two days.

“For a couple of days there it was touch and go, but at the same time it all worked out,” Bailey said.

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New York Islanders

BACK AT THE BARN: What It Was Like Being at an Empty Nassau Coliseum for a Game



The New York Islanders home rink of Nassau Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Prior to this week, the last time the New York Islanders had stepped foot on Nassau Coliseum ice was March 7, 2020. While it was only 10 months ago, in retrospect it seems like a lifetime ago.

COVID-19 had only just started to creep into the sports universe. What would transpire a week later wasn’t even imaginable at the time. So there was a sense of familiarity and brief normalcy when I walked into the Coliseum on Monday afternoon for the Islanders home opener against the Boston Bruins.

under normal circumstances, in January I am usually fully engulfed in the Islanders season. Weekends are planned around game and practice coverage, or that odd trip on the road with the Islanders. Instead, the first few months of the traditional hockey season were spent wondering if there would even be hockey games to cover at all.

To say I was looking forward to being at Monday’s game would be an understatement.

Nassau Coliseum exterior Walking into the Nassau Coliseum you were quickly reminded of the current state of the world. Signs about the need to wear a mask at all times inside the building were everywhere, as were Purell hand sanitizing stations. Security checked our temperature at the door and media members and staff entering had to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire.

It’s a similar procedure for those of us that attend Islanders practices in person, so it had become a sort of second nature.

What was the most jarring thing on Monday was the quiet of the arena. Those of us covering games aren’t allowed into the Coliseum until an hour before game time, which would mean during normal times that the concourse would be bustling with fans and vendors selling overpriced beer and pretzels.

You would move at a snail’s pace trying to walk from the media gate to the press box elevators. Instead, it was a brisk walk onto the concourse and into the inner bowl where they have us set up to watch the games from. If there is any silver lining, then it’s the fact that we’re down a bit lower than where the Coliseum press box is, but I still enjoy watching from above to see how plays develop and get a different angle on the game.

The Islanders tried to keep the game presentation the same as they would if the building had been packed with fans. They blasted the music during warmups and during a stoppage of play — albeit at noticeably lower decibel than previously — pump-up videos were on the video board and goals and penalties were announced by the public address announcer.

Cardboard fans

And they pumped in crowd noise, which wasn’t all that bad and helped keep some figment of a normal game experience. When the Islanders faced the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the volume of the crowd noise did not go over so well, but Monday on Long Island, it was done just right.

In fact, on Thursday during the Islanders 4-1 win over New Jersey, the fake crowd noise was almost nonexistent.

To that end, what was the oddest part of the whole experience so far was the emptiness of the Nassau Coliseum. Sure, people have their jokes about how empty the building has been in years past when the team wasn’t doing well, but at its best, the Coliseum is one of the toughest places to play in the NHL

In large part due to the fans that inhabit it. Adjusting to the calm and quiet, except for the music and fake noise, was something that took time.

Through all of the oddities, it was good to be back in an NHL rink.

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New York Islanders

Barzal Dazzles, Drives Isles in Win Over New Jersey | NYHN+



Mathew Barzal

If there were any concerns about Mathew Barzal’s game because of his late arrival to training camp, the 23-year-old has quickly dispelled them with his dominant play on Thursday night.

It was Barzal’s three points (1g, 2a) along with linemate Jordan Eberle’s two goals that pushed the Islanders to a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum.

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