New York Islanders winger Anthony Beauvillier had been on a 10-game goal-scoring drought, but by Wednesday night’s end, his dry spell was replenished — as was the Nassau Coliseum ice that was quickly doused in beer after.
There will be a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup semifinal as Beauvillier scored the overtime winner just 1:08 into the extra frame to lift the Islanders to a 3-2 victory in Game 6 over the Lightning to keep their season alive for at least one more winner-take-all game in Tampa on Friday night.
Off a strong forecheck in the right circle of the Lightning zone, Beauvillier picked off a pass from Blake Coleman before cutting between the dots and ripping a wrister over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s glove to send the Coliseum into bedlam, which featured beers showering down from the seats.
“It feels amazing, to be honest,” Beauvillier said. “That building coming into overtime was smelling like cigarettes and now it smells like beers.
“I honestly kind of blacked out a little bit. They turned the puck over and it kind of went it and then I sort of blacked out… couldn’t be more happy.”
The Islanders had to overcome a 2-0 second-period deficit — a significant uphill climb considering they were shut out 8-0 in Game 5 just two nights ago.
But a later second-period goal from Jordan Eberle was followed by Scott Mayfield’s equalizer with 8:44 to go in regulation to force overtime — both with assists from Mathew Barzal, who was allowed to play after facing league discipline for cross-checking Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta in the face on Monday.
“I just said stick to the process. Stick to what we’re doing,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “These are great moments. Just manage the puck, do all the things we’ve been doing for the first three periods and make sure we’re playing on our toes.”
Compared to that Game 5, the Islanders put on a much stronger showing in the first period, but still had nothing to show for it as they wound up trailing.
It was none other than Brayden Point, who scored in his ninth-straight postseason game to put Tampa ahead with 3:58 to go in the first. A strong forecheck by the scorer pinballed around Semyon Varlamov’s left post before he was able to get to it and sneak a wrister over the netminder’s stick.
After whistles had been kept in pockets for the first 23-and-a-half minutes of the game, the onus on special teams returned.
After Cal Clutterbuck was sent off for roughing, the Lightning’s stellar power-play was cut short when Victor Hedman tripped Casey Cizikas before Mikhail Sergachev interfered with Barzal — creating a 4-on-3 opportunity for the Islanders for 16 seconds and a 5-on-3 for nearly a minute after that.
They couldn’t do a thing with it, unable to get through Vasilevskiy — which hurt even more when Anthony Cirelli put Tampa Bay up 2-0 with 7:24 left in the frame.
Miscommunication between Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock allowed Cirelli to split the defense and get in alone on Varlamov where he slid his chance through the five-hole.
The Islanders finally found a response and ended the Lightning’s 12-0 goal run dating back to the third period of Game 4 through Eberle, who had also been a missing man for a majority of the playoffs.
After the first line buzzed through the Tampa zone, Barzal dropped a pass for Eberle, who meandered between the dots before sending a backhander through the pads Vasilevskiy blocker side with 5:38 to go in the second.
“I felt we needed it,” Trotz said of Eberle’s goal. “Just getting back. The first period we played really well and they ended up scoring… the way we were playing, we were going to be fine.”
Cizikas came within inches of equalizing moments later, but he couldn’t get his stick down in time as a redirected puck buzzed through the crease.
More Islanders opportunities went beckoning when they couldn’t take advantage of an Alex Killorn penalty midway through the third period as a tentative group seemed more interested in making the perfect pass than getting something on Vasilevskiy’s net.
Unlike the last time they let a power-play chance fall by the wayside, the Islanders kept the momentum up in desperation and after Barzal did well to keep possession in the Lightning zone, a weaving possession found Mayfield on the right boards.
The blueliner beelined down that side, cutting in on Vasilevskiy’s goal before popping a wrist shot from a tough angle over the big netminder’s shoulder, grazing off the crossbar and in with 8:44 to go in regulation.
New York needed one more gargantuan effort just to see it through to overtime as Matt Martin was called for a high-stick with 5:57 remaining — to which the Islanders were able to kill it off with Varlamov making five key saves.
“[This game will] be up there with one of the best because of the situation,” Trotz said. “The group that is playing right now, I love this group. This building and what it’s meant to a number of players but probably more than anything, our fans. These are great moments.
“Going off the ice and everyone’s hugging each other, there are beer cans all over, it’s quite a sight. These are moments you’ll remember and great memories to have. But we have to get another one. “