The New York Islanders time at Barclays Center is coming to a close. The team will be on the way out at season’s end to play at Nassau Coliseum for one last full season before moving to Belmont Park Arena. While it is unknown if they’ll play there again due to the NHL’s Coronavirus pause, the move back to “The Old Barn” is all but a guarantee.
While the Barclays Center era for the Islanders will mostly be remembered for many failures, including the obstructed views, long trips via the railroad, and the team that boasted one of the worst blue lines in recent memory, the “Barc” will always be associated with some memorable moments for the team. As the organization counts the days till returning to the Island full time, lets recall the top 5 games for the Islanders at Barclays Center.
Number 5: Islanders vs. Senators- 11/5/2019
The reason to pick this game is that it was a historic mark for the Islanders in the 21st century. Coming in the Islanders were riding high on a nine game win streak and were looking for the double digit mark on that Tuesday. Things for the Islanders looked bleak to start, as then future Islander Jean Gabriel Pageau scored shorthanded to open the scoring. However, Cal Clutterbuck responded almost immediately to tie the game at 1.
The second would be uneventful until the 15:34 mark when rookie Cole Bardreau was tripped on a breakaway to create a penalty shot opportunity. The drama heightened as the kid looked to score his first goal in the NHL in a big spot. The referee gives him the signal, and Cole comes on in and beats Craig Anderson five-hole to give the Islander the lead. The Islanders wouldn’t look back from there, as two goals, a shorthanded tally by Casey Cizikas and delayed penalty marker by Josh Bailey, would seal the Islanders tenth straight win. The win gave the franchise its second all time ten game win streak.
4. Islanders vs. Jets 12/23/17
While the 2017-18 campaign may have been a dud, the Islanders saw several elite performances by Calder Trophy winner Mat Barzal. This was the game when he firmly planted his status as one of the brightest young stars in the NHL. On a Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, the Islanders scored first on an Anders Lee power play marker on a rebound. Almost a minute later, Jordan Eberle found Barzal driving to the net, thread the needle from the corner, and Barzal tapped it home to make it 2-0 early. The Jets would get a late first period goal by Nikolai Ehlers to make it 2-1, but Barzal would strike again inside the final minute of the first on a bank shot that deflected off a Jets defender and in. The score would be 3-1 and that score would hold beyond the second intermission.
With less than nine minutes to go in the third, Andrew Ladd handed the puck off to Jordan Eberle in Gretzky’s Office, who found Barzal driving in front to bury his third of the game, the first hat trick of his NHL career. Anthony Beauvillier and Adam Lowry would trade goals inside the final 8 minutes as the Islanders would earn a 5-2 victory in their last game before Christmas. While it was a strong team victory for New York, Barzal stole the show and earned first star honors. Even if his career was young, this was one of the many performances that gave Islanders fans hope that the future was bright with Barzal leading the charge.
3. Islanders vs. Panthers (Game 3) 4/17/2016
This game was the Islanders first ever playoff game in Brooklyn, and it was an entertaining one at that. The place was electric even before warmups begun and the anthem was sung. However, the Panthers put a damper on things early with a backhand goal by Reilly Smith, his fourth of the series, for the only tally of the frame. The game seemed out of reach around the middle of the second when Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad scored to make it 3-0. However, the Islanders challenged the latter tally for offsides and were successful.
Immediately after the waved off goal, the Islanders were given a 5-on-3 power play after two penalties by Florida. The then rookie Ryan Pulock would go on to blast a one timer past Luongo to make the game 2-1. When it seemed the Islanders had all the momentum, Nick Bjugstad broke it up with an immediate response after the power play ended to make it 3-1. However, the Islanders would rally as Shane Prince and Frans Nielsen scored to tie it at 3 heading to the third.
The third period would be a deadlock as the game went into overtime. Nothing would be solved in the first half of overtime, but after a Nikolai Kulemin shot got deflected below the goal line, Brock Nelson found Thomas Hickey breaking in alone in front to tap it home and give the Islanders a 4-3 win and 2-1 lead in the series.
2. Islanders vs. Red Wings 2/9/2018
This game was the epitome of a roller coaster affair. So many emotions could be felt by both sides in this game from the forefront. Detroit dominated the play early and took the early 3-0 lead by the end of the first period on goals by Mantha, Martin Frk, and Henrik Zetterberg. Jordan Eberle got a goal to make it 3-1 around halfway through the middle period, but the deficit would remain at 2 heading into the final period.
However, the third period was most likely the best period of hockey Barclays Center has ever witnessed. Brock Nelson score early to make it 3-2, but Detroit countered on the back of a pair of goals by Darren Helm and Anthony Mantha, his second, to make it a seemingly insurmountable 5-2 lead. As the Islanders were continuing to implode and fall down the NHL standings, to the fanbase it felt like rock bottom. However, things began to shift as Tyler Bertuzzi took a five minute major by slashing Cal Clutterbuck.
The Isles would go right to work as Brock Nelson tipped a Mat Barzal shot to make it 5-3. Less than a minute later, a Barzal one time shot would generate a rebound, and Anders Lee was there to clean up the garbage to make it 5-4. The place had energy as Detroit called its timeout. The crowd kept the energy going hoping to will the Islanders to a tying goal, and 70 seconds later they would. Nick Leddy one timed a shot from the blue line and it beat Mrazek high to tie it at 5. The place was rocking like the Nassau Coliseum before it, eager to see the conclusion to a spectacular third, and 90 seconds later it exploded when John Tavares thread the needle to Josh Bailey on a one-timer to put the Islanders improbably on top 6-5. The team and its fans were on top of the world, and confidence was high heading into the final 90 seconds. However, Detroit would play spoiler inside the final minute as Mike Green tipped in a corner shot to tie it at 6 and cap off the wild period. After 8 goals and 30 shots between the teams, the game went to overtime.
The extra frame would begin and it was back and forth throughout until Brock Nelson and Mat Barzal broke out on a 2-on-1. Barzal sauced it to Nelson, Nelson fired it home for his third of the game, and the Islanders won the game of the 2017-18 NHL season by a final score of 7-6.
1. Islanders vs. Panthers (Game 6) 4/24/16
The number 1 game on this list was also a historic day for the team. Heading in, the Islanders were up 3-2 in their first round matchup with the Florida Panthers, and one win would give them their first playoff series victory in 23 years. Anticipation for the game was high as the fans were very hopefully that the team would end the series win drought. The puck dropped on the game and the Islanders played a quality opening frame, but just outside the final minute of period 1 Johnathan Huberdeau beat Thomas Greiss upstairs to make it 1-0 Florida. The second period was scoreless with Greiss bouncing back and making several key saves. The same could be said with Panther net minder Roberto Luongo.
The third period would begin and the fans were looking for a big push to win the series. Both teams would exchange chances, but nothing would come out of them heading into the final two minutes. Then, just outside the final minute, the controversy of the series took center stage. With Vincent Trochek looking for an empty net with 70 seconds left, Matt Martin tripped him up as he shot it through traffic. The shot would be blocked and Nick Leddy would go end-to-end and jam it on goal. Nikolai Kulemin would take a jab at it outside the crease, and it found its way to the other side of the blue paint where John Tavares came streaking in and stuffed it home to tie it at one inside the final minute of regulation. The place was rocking as the game went to overtime.
Overtime would begin and both goaltenders were sharp. Neither team was willing to give the other the edge and make a mistake. Time would pass and the overtime would solve nothing. As a result, we would go on to double overtime. More than half of the fifth period would pass before Kyle Okposo tipped a puck to John Tavares on the right wing. Tavares took a shot which Luongo stopped, by Tavares drove around the net, stuffed it in, and won the game and series for New York. While the impact John Tavares made on this game and organization may be forever tainted with how he left a two years later, it’s undeniable that this was one of the greatest moments of his time with New York, the history of the franchise, and the greatest moment in Barclays Center NHL history.
As a result, while Brooklyn may not have been the most memorable time in Islanders history, there are two things fans should take away. One is the memories of the 2016 playoffs and other individual games that kept you glued from start to finish. The other is that Barclays was a safety blanket for the team. While it was not an NHL arena, it kept the team here until the news of Belmont Park Arena came to be, and it should not be viewed in a totally negative light. Barclays wasn’t the ideal arena, but it was a good short term option before the team returns home.