It was as if the team never left. Just like so many matinees that proceeded it, Islanders fans crowded the Nassau Coliseum to tailgate and party before game time. The Centennial Fan Arena was on site, providing entertainment for fans of all ages. There was enough beer to fill the Long Island Sound, as well as music and games to rival an arcade. Even Islander’s owner John Ledecky was having fun with Isles fans. The atmosphere was second to none. It was bedlam from the start.
Once inside, it felt like a playoff game. Fans descended from their seats to ice level to greet their team. Once they returned, it got loud, really loud. Hearing 13,917 passionate Islanders fans chant “Let’s go Islanders” at a preseason game is something I, and many other fans will never forget.
Immediately after puck drop chants were flying left and right. The first period was scoreless but the amount of noise coming from the crowd was enormous. The usual Josh Bailey, Rangers suck, and power play chants were all sang with devotion and pride. The team was back on Long Island for at least one more time, and no one in the Coliseum was going to let the opportunity to enjoy it escape them.
The second period didn’t start as well as the first. The atmosphere seemed to die down after the intermission and the Flyers got on the board early. Soon after, Jori Lehtera capitalized on a bouncing puck and beat Kristers Gudlevskis on a breakaway to give Philadelphia a 2-0 lead. Not long after that, however, the Islanders got on the board courtesy of John Tavares. The forward group was able to crash the net and John put home a loose puck.
As the third period approached, the atmosphere began to return to its pregame form. Soon into it, Matthew Barzal carried the puck from his own end and beat Flyers goalie Alex Lyon to tie the game at two.
Overtime was a blur. The Islanders quickly got the puck into the offensive zone and went to work. Suddenly, out of the corner, John Tavares emerged with the puck and walked out, unguarded, into the slot and fired a wrist shot past Leland Irving. It was complete and utter pandemonium. A storybook couldn’t have ended this game in better fashion.
There was good and bad to take away from this game. First, it seems like Tavares and Eberle are meshing well together. Eberle had an assist on Tavares’ first goal and Tavares potted two himself. The fans were rambunctious, displaying passion not seen at many regular season games. The penalty kill was perfect as well, shutting everything down including a 5-on-3 in the first period. However, as training camp continues, the power play needs to be addressed as it was a point of weakness in this hockey game. Nevertheless, everyone in attendance this afternoon was treated to one of the better hockey games they may ever see, even though it was preseason. The Isles’ take on the Rangers tomorrow night at the Garden.