By Arnie Leshin
For the scorching hot New York Islanders, it’s the perfect time to win their first Stanley Cup in 37 years.
Last season, they played half the National Hockey League season at their original venue, the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Long Island and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Now, as the 6th-seed, they opened the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday night by outplaying the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers, 5-0, at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. This comes at a time that the Isles are awaiting the finishing touches to the arena at Belmont Park they will call home.
It plans to be ready for the 2020-21 season, and wouldn’t it be neat to see the Islanders hoist the Stanley Cup around the venue? But first things first. They began this restarted shortened season playoff by turning back the Florida Panthers in four games. Next came the Washington Capitals via the same results. Now they are three wins away from the conference final.
In the Western Conference quarterfinals last night in Alberta, it was again the 5th-seeded Dallas Stars besting the 3rd-seeded Colorado Avalanche, 5-2, to take a 2-0 lead in the series. In the regular season, Dallas went 4-for-4 versus Colorado.
This time, the Avalanche owned a 1-0 lead after one quarter on a goal from Nathan Markinnon, but after the Stars tied it at 1-all on a Joe Pavelski goal, they added on three more off the sticks of Radek Faksa, Esa Lindell and Jamie Oleksak before Colorado cut the 4-1 deficit in half on Mikko Rantanes’ goal in the same quarter. In period three, Dallas added another goal from Alexander Radulov,
The Avalanche out shot the Stars, 40-27, and Dallas was penalized nine times, resulting in 18 minutes in the penalty box, while Colorado was called for only four penalties and served eight minutes, which proves that only the final score matters. The teams play again Wednesday.
In the Islanders-Flyers match-up, New York scored once in the first quarter on a goal from 37-year-old Andy Greene. He was on the ice following the injury to starter Johnny Boychuck in the Panther series. The stout Isles defense kept that lead despite the aggressiveness of Philly in the scoreless second period, but in the third period, they tacked on three more, one from Anders Lee on a the end of some dandy passing from his mates, and the finishing touches came on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s shot into the empty net, his fifth of the playoffs.
It was goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov’s second-straight shutout of the playoffs, the other coming on the 4-0 win that clinched the Washington series. He made 29 saves and has now allowed but 15 goals in 10 games. Carter Hart was in goal for the Flyers, made some stellar saves, but not enough as the Isles made good on 24 of 28 tries. They, too, play again Wednesday.