A confession: I lost my faith in the New York Islanders when Brayden Point scored the first goal of Game 6 to give Tampa a 1-0 lead—his incredible 14th time scoring in 17 playoff games. Not only did that goal put the Islanders down first in a series that had never had a lead change, but it was the 11th goal in a row that the Lightning had put in the Islanders net without conceding one for themselves. To say all the momentum was in the Bolts’ favor would be an unethical understatement, and it only got worse in the second period, when after a five-on-three Lightning penalty kill Anthony Cirelli scored almost from out of nowhere after a lengthy pass from Ondrej Palat destroyed the New York blueliners. If the Lightning held on to this 2-0 lead for less than half a game, they’d be heading to the Stanley Cup Final as I type.
But, oh my god, the Isles came back! In what could have been (and what may still turn out to be) their final game at Nassau Coliseum, this irresistible squad discovered that they still had a little more gas left in the tank. Jordan Eberle provided the first sign of life when he backhanded a shot in before the second period ended. And then in the third, Scott Mayfield of all people set the place on fire with a roof shot from a ridiculous angle.
That was enough to send the game to overtime, where it took barely a minute for the Islanders to complete this improbable comeback and force a Game 7. Anthony Beauvillier—a young, exciting scoring winger whose career in retrospect has been building and building to a moment like this—accepted a gift of a turnover from Blake Coleman and with no hesitation fired the puck past a stunned Andrei Vasilevskiy. Game over. Series not.
My emotional reaction to the goal was confoundment as much as it was elation. Some of the home fans, too, forgot how to act in the moment and chucked beer cans onto the ice. But nothing—not the bowels of hell opening up below center ice at the Coli—could have tempered the Isles’ spirits coming out of this one.
“Honestly, I kind of blacked out a little bit,” Beauvillier said afterward. “I was just so happy, everybody jumped on me and was screaming.”
All this enthusiasm and excitement and unforgettable hockey brings us to the question in the headline: Do you believe? Does Nikita Kucherov’s potential absence due to injury, and the incredible high from this win, and the fact that the Isles have found a way to edge out the Lightning three times already combine to convince you that they can do it once more in Game 7? Is that instantly immortal Beauvillier winner enough to make you forget that, going back to the start of last year, the Lightning and Vasi are 12-0 coming off playoff losses? At this point, I truly have no idea what the answer should be. I can’t even bring myself to make even a winking prediction with any level of confidence. But I suppose certainty and logic aren’t what belief is about.