Islanders Struck by Lightning in Conference Finals

The New York Islanders’ postseason run came to an unfortunate end on Friday, Sept. 18. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Islanders by a score of 2-1 in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals. The winning goal, scored by Anthony Cirelli in overtime, secured the win for Tampa Bay, as they won the series with four games won to two lost. Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz commented on the loss, stating, “We could see the mountain top, but we couldn’t get to the mountain top.” Captain and left wing Anders Lee shared his opinion on the team’s effort as a whole: “A lot of pride, character, resiliency… every single one of us believed in each other, what we were doing, and the road we were on.” 

Despite the loss, the Islanders have shown resilience and tenacity throughout their postseason endeavors. They have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for two consecutive seasons, and their fans could not have been more thrilled. It is a great feeling when your favorite team is doing well, and sophomore Alex Bonomo had no trouble describing the Islanders in their prime: “I’d say [they are] exciting, physical, and lights out.” That mentality did not change a bit this season, despite having restrictions due to COVID-19. They placed sixth in the Metropolitan Division, having an overall season record of 35-23-10. In the Qualifying Round against the Florida Panthers, they took the series 3-1 and advanced to the first round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals. They skated by the Capitals 4-1 in the series and were hungry for more as they took on the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round. In the end, it came down to a game seven, but the Islanders crushed the Flyers 4-0. And, for the first time since 1993, the Islanders were heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Tampa Bay Lightning took an early series lead of 2-0, but the Islanders stayed alive in game three, winning by a score of 5-3. Brock Nelson, who scored the game-winning goal, commented, “It’s nice to get a bounce back win.” Ultimately, it came down to a game six, as the Tampa Bay Lightning led the series 3-2. The Islanders struck first, as defenseman Devon Toews made an impressive behind-the-net goal past Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped a total of 26 shots on net for the Lightning. It was truly an evenly matched battle, as the Islanders fought to the bitter end. Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, who had an impressive 46 saves, kept the Islanders alive until Cirelli just narrowly scored off a rebound to send the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals. Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield spoke after the game, saying, “The bar has always been set high… this year getting to the Conference Finals, it hurts now, but I guess that’s a silver lining if you look at it that way.” 

After watching the Islanders’ playoff run, Spanish Teacher William Luzzi was saddened to see how close, yet far, the Islanders came to winning it all, stating, “I thought they had a really good chance. They made a valiant effort, but unfortunately they didn’t capitalize on their opportunity.” The Lightning showed their respect to the Islanders as they shook hands afterwards, and no hard feelings were exchanged between the teams. The Islanders’ season has officially come to an end, but their expectations for the future could not be more promising. Sophomore Max Cordes was hopeful about the Islanders next year, having another chance to become champions of hockey, having said, “I think they will have another ecstatic season, and [they] will continue to surprise and show up in big games. I hope to see them continue to do what they do best and go for that Stanley Cup!” With a new stadium in Belmont, New York that is expected to be completed next year, the Islanders hope to bring hockey, and a championship, back to Long Island.