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Isles barnstorm through former home

Score Emotional Overtime Victory in Return to Nassau Coliseum

September 19, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
NYCB Live, better known to Islander fans as the Nassau Coliseum, was rocking all Sunday afternoon as the franchise returned to its Long Island roots for a one-off exhibition game against the Philadelphia Flyers. AP Photo by Kathy Willens
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The New York Islanders aren’t sure how long they will be in Brooklyn.

Nor do they have knowledge of exactly where their next home arena will be located.

But one thing was evident from Sunday afternoon’s one-off visit to NYCB Live, better known as the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, they still love the “Old Barn.”

“It had the atmosphere like most Saturday home games when we were here and pretty close to what we had in the playoffs,” Islanders team captain John Tavares said after scoring two goals, including the overtime game-winner, in a 3-2 preseason triumph over Philadelphia.

“It was a lot of fun. I was trying to knock the rust off, but at the same time take it in because it’s such a great place.” 

Tavares, who spent the better part of his career playing on Long Island after being selected first overall by New York in the 2009 NHL Draft, scored at 8:15 of the second period to cut into a 2-0 Philadelphia lead.

After rookie Mathew Barzal, one of the many young Islanders trying to earn a spot on the Opening Night roster, tied the score at 2-2 at 5:23 of the third stanza, Tavares completed the comeback just 24 seconds into extra time.

“We know what this place means to everybody involved with the Islanders,” noted Tavares, who is headed for unrestricted free agency next summer unless general manager Garth Snow finds a way to get him signed to an extension prior to the completion of the upcoming 2017-18 campaign.

“It was a lot of fun, there was a lot of emotion out there.”

That emotion was palpable from parking lot tailgating to puck drop to final horn after Tavares stole the puck, skated in and beat Flyers goalie Leland Irving to send the capacity crowd of 13,917 into a tizzy.

After 43 years of calling Uniondale, N.Y., home, the Isles shifted to Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season.

Virtually from the start there have been complaints of shoddy ice conditions, poor sight lines for fans and a lack of atmosphere in the Downtown arena, which was not built with the idea of housing an NHL team in mind.

The Isles will likely opt out of their current lease at Barclays come January, and by the end of this month, team owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are expected to turn in a Bid for Proposal to a new arena site in Belmont, N.Y.

But for one Sunday afternoon, everything that was old was new again as the Isles rocked the Coliseum in a manner reserved for the halcyon days of the 1980s, when the franchise made its mark with four consecutive Stanley Cup titles.

“It felt like an end of the season, or an early playoff game,” Isles forward Anders Lee said.

“There was wonderful energy in the building, and obviously the fans showed up and supported us. It’s a fun way to start the year off.”

The first Isles game at the Coliseum since April of 2015 saw the team draw 900 more fans than they averaged in 41 home dates at Barclays last season.

The team is yet to come close to matching the 15,551 fans they averaged per home game during the final season on Long Island in 2014-15 during their first two seasons on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

But despite the hankering for a full-time return home from diehard fans on L.I., NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has already indicated that a return to the Coliseum is “not a viable option” for the Isles.

The Isles didn’t have nearly as much fun Monday night as they suffered a 1-0 overtime loss to the East River rival Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Veteran netminder Jaroslav Halak stopped all 22 shots he faced before giving way to Eamon McAdam, who surrendered the game’s only tally to Neal Pionk midway through the extra period.

“It was a tough game, but we battled,” Isles head coach Doug Weight said. “The goaltending was outstanding for us. Jaro was great and gave us a chance and Eamon came in and was stellar, so it was good to see.”

Isle Have Another: Barzal, who skated in a couple of games with the Isles last season, impressed Weight during Sunday’s win in Uniondale. “He showed well today,” Weight said. “Strong, some great decisions with the puck and he created a lot. I thought throughout our lineup we had guys who played their roles well.” … The Isles were hampered by countless penalty calls in Monday’s loss as the NHL is hoping to cut down on players using their sticks to slow down the action. Teams are still adjusting to the rash of slashing calls around the league during the early portion of the preseason slate. “We have to adapt to the new rules,” Weight said. “Neither team did a great job of adapting today.” The teams combined for 36 penalty minutes without a fighting major. “I get it, we have to get it in the league and set a precedent with the sticks and things like that, but it’s tough to get guys involved,” Weight added. “You have guys trying to make hockey clubs and make a statement, but they are generally not going to be guys killing all the penalties or on the power play. It’s tough. No blame, but it was tough.” 

 


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