Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP
Nassau Coliseum was the place to be on Wednesday night from start to finish.
Islanders fans sensed blood with their team putting the Boston Bruins on the brink of elimination. After the Islanders’ 5-4 Game 5 victory over the Boston Bruins Monday night at TD Garden, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy raised the stakes by foolishly calling the Islanders as the New York Saints for fooling the league into thinking they are a clean team with the lack of penalties they got while his team gets called out for it.
Islanders fans did not disappoint. They tailgated in the afternoon to get ready for this night’s game. Several people dressed up as Saints to mock Cassidy. The Bruins got heckled all night long, especially their overmatched head coach. The “New York Saints!” and “Tuukka!” chants came out loud and clear.
We make too much out of home-ice, home-field and home-court advantage in pro sports. But the Coliseum provides proof positive that home-ice advantage can work for the home team. On this night, the Islanders fans gave their team an emotional boost that would result in a 6-2 Game 6 elimination victory against the Bruins. A tonic the Islanders needed to make sure there would be no letdown.
UBS Arena will have so much to live up to next season and beyond when the Islanders play their home games at their new home arena. New arenas can be sterile, and that means UBS Arena may not have the impact that the Coliseum does. Now, from all accounts, fans will be close to the action like it was at the Coliseum. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Until then, the Islanders will play at least two more games at the Coliseum. They will play the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup semifinals. It’s a rematch of last year when both teams played in the Eastern Conference Final.
It was hard to believe the Islanders were going to be denied in this game. The Bruins appeared frustrated they could not finish up their opponent in Games 4 and 5. The Islanders defense did such a good job of containing the Bruins top line of Brad Marchand-David Pastrnak-Patrice Bergeron despite scoring most of the Bruins’ goals. Most importantly, the Islanders defense made the rest of the Bruins’ lines a non-factor, specifically Taylor Hall.
The Bruins appeared like a dead-man walking. It may be why Cassidy lost his mind after Game 5. It’s hard to believe a head coach would be frazzled after losing a pivotal game.
The Islanders took it to the Bruins in the first period by peppering shots at Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and making sure their counterpart would not get the puck. It resulted in the Islanders taking a 1-0 lead in the first period on a Travis Zajac goal.
Marchand gave the Bruins a lift by scoring a power-play goal with 2:24 remaining in the first, tying the game at 1. No matter. The Bruins bided their time until the Islanders were ready to put the game away. They knew it, too.
The Islanders exploded with three goals in the second period to put the game away for good. Brock Nelson scored twice and Kyle Palmieri scored his seventh playoff goal. The Islanders would enter the second intermission with a 3-1 lead.
From there, the Bruins were shot. They left everything out of their tank in Games 4 and 5. They couldn’t muster much in the first period to begin with. The Islanders took the will out of them for good in that second period.
The third period served more as a coronation to the Islanders advancing to the next round. Fans chanted “WE WANT TAMPA!” that period. They knew. There would not be bad karma here. Even when Marchand scored his second goal of the game in the third period, nothing was stopping the Islanders’ juju.
The Bruins acted out of desperation to score by taking out Rask for an extra attacker, but that strategy proved futile. The Islanders scored two empty-netters to make this a 6-2 game.
That was all she wrote. Good-bye, Bruins, Hello, Lightning.
Here’s where the Islanders deserve credit: There was no complacency. There was a killer instinct to beat a team that was down after Monday night. With the Lightning finishing off the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night, it was a message for the Islanders to finish their opponent as quickly as possible, and they answered.
We figured this series would be tight. These first five games showed that.
In the final game of this series, the Islanders outclassed the Bruins.
The scoreboard told the story. The Bruins’ body language explained it all.
Yes indeed, let the Saints march into the Stanley Cup semifinals.