Cape Breton Post
Character win for Islanders
Seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup semifinal tonight in Tampa
Barry Trotz had zero doubt.
The New York Islanders coach, during his morning availability on Wednesday, wasn’t concerned about the ability of his team to respond after it was spanked by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs semifinal.
“This team has a lot of character,” Trotz said. “They bring everything they have, night in, night out. Their character will never be an issue with me, and it shouldn’t be with anybody if you watch us play.”
Two nights after the Islanders lost 8-0, they proved their coach correct.
Anthony Beauvillier was the hero at Nassau Coliseum, scoring at 1:08 of overtime to give the Isles a 3-2 win in Game 6, forcing Game 7 of the best-of-seven series tonight in Tampa.
Beauvillier beat Andrei Vasilevskiy high on the glove side after a giveaway deep in the Tampa zone by Blake Coleman.
“It feels amazing,” said Beauvillier, who scored his first goal in 11 games. “That building coming into overtime was smelling like cigarettes, now it smells like beers.
“The place was going crazy. A huge effort from our team.
“I blacked out a bit (on the goal). Saw it go in and was just so happy.
“We earned the opportunity to go back to Tampa
for Game 7 and everyone is excited.”
The triumphant team tonight will take on the winner of the semifinal between the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights in the Cup final. The Canadiens led the best-of-seven 3-2 against Vegas heading into Game 6 on Thursday, but the result of that game was unavailable at deadline.
Tampa will be looking to earn the right to defend its
2020 Stanley Cup title; the Isles have not been in the final since 1984, when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers.
“The guys recognize the moments,” Trotz said. “They stay in check shift to shift.
“This will be one you will remember as a player, as a coach, as a fan. It was a good hockey game. It has been a great series so far.”
Tampa lost playoff leading scorer Nikita Kucherov in the game’s opening minutes.
Kucherov took a cross-check from Scott Mayfield — which, to no surprise, unfortunately, went without a call — and then had what appeared to be a routine bump with Mathew Barzal.
Kucherov hunched over and made his way directly to the Lightning dressing room at the next whistle.
If there’s a good reason why the NHL allows its star players to take abuse without consistent penalty calls, no one from Gary Bettman’s office has stepped forward to supply it.
After the game, Tampa coach Jon Cooper said he had no update on Kucherov’s status.
The Islanders battled back after the Lightning built a 2-0 lead.
In the third, New York had its chances before Mayfield tied the game 2-2 at 11:16. After taking a pass from Barzal, Mayfield, who had popped in from the point, went high on the short side over Vasilevskiy’s glove.
Tampa failed to score during a late power play.
The Isles needed something to put a spring in their step heading into the third, and they got it at 14:22 of the second when Jordan Eberle beat Vasilevskiy with a backhand for the first New York goal since the second period of Game 4.
Brayden Point scored the only goal in the first period, extending his goal streak to nine games to put Tampa up 1-0.
If Point scores in a 10th game in a row, he will tie Reggie Leach for the longest goal streak in NHL playoff history, some 45 years after Leach set the record in 1976 with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Leach thinks Point will pull even with his record.
“I believe that he’s going to do it, which is going to be great,” Leach told Postmedia News earlier this week. “I would be very happy for the young man.”