An almost full hall was an inspiring sight for all sports fans


UNIONDALE, NY – The late-night frenzy that enveloped the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday wasn’t the party the Bruins wanted to attend, not as they envisioned a rare two-game road sweep on this second-round visit playoff round in New York. But as time passed for the Islanders’ 4-1 win in Game 4 for a series now tied at two games apiece, a thrilled home crowd was more than happy to use their cheers to rock the Bruins to the fore. in Boston.

A thrilled, almost full crowd at home, that is to say.

No, that wasn’t the outcome the Bruins were looking for. But it was exactly the kind of night that sports fans were looking for, a night that sports fans, and maybe a few writers too, were waiting for, a night to remember all that is wonderful about people who bring energy. real and alive and the passion for the arenas and stadiums we visit.

The home crowd contributed as much to the Islanders’ victory as anything Mathew Barzal did on skates or Matt Martin with his fists, providing the level of madness, frenzy and energy that threatened to topple this building before the real wrecking ball does not make its appointment already made.

This is precisely the type of atmosphere that awaits the Bruins on Monday night at TD Garden, the type of atmosphere that bathed the team with so much love and success in their dominant Game 1 win, the type of atmosphere that we have missed so much as a sports fanatic. during the pandemic. When you host that grateful comeback to a hockey arena and do it during the playoffs, we can guarantee it to you: playoff hockey is going to deliver.

“Right now I’m very excited to go back and play in front of our fans again,” center David Krejci said after the game. “We’re definitely going to use their energy, and this is the fifth game. The playoffs are all about making adjustments. We’re going to make some adjustments and I’m sure they will too. We’re going to have to play our best game of the season.

The Bruins didn’t do that on Saturday, a night that included relinquishing a 1-0 lead midway through the second period, allowing three goals in the third period (although two were empty goalscorers) in a home stretch that nearly blew up the roof of the Old Barn, watching David Pastrnak miss a wide open net (and collapse face down in disbelief when he slammed it from the far post) or let Barzal hit a puck to score the decisive goal. .

But that’s the way it is in playoff hockey, when the momentum is fleeting and the drama is intense. And that’s how things were always going to be in this particular series of playoff hockey, one that opened with Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy talking about the mirror image across the ice. A Bruins-Islanders clash guarantees a night of fighting through a wall of humanity just to hit the puck, knowing that a body or board will always be in your way. Double that in the playoffs, when there is no change to relax, no control to hold, no “next time” to look forward to.

With so much at stake on Saturday, why wouldn’t the Islanders use every perk at their disposal, from the last change advantage to last-second clashes amid the cacophonous crowd. No wonder they returned to the ice for a pat to the fans.

“They’re down, 2-1, they’re home, all of a sudden you don’t get this one and you lose two games. We expected their best identity game, ”Cassidy said. “The physics, the defense, the congestion of the neutral zone, surpass us, surpass us and seize their opportunities. I thought we were patient. Before the third, it was 1-1. We were fine. I thought we reacted early with the physique. We dropped our mittens.

In this environment, the Bruins had little choice. The doors have finally reopened and a game straight out of the 1970s has entered, punches and passion go hand in hand on the ice, madness and chaos unfolding in the stands. Whether it’s former islander Clark Gillies crushing a can of beer on his head or Netflix star-turned-Ralph Macchio urging the crowd with his Karate Kid moves, the night has never stopped.

You knew the night was going to be different when Taylor Hall was the first to drop his gloves. Hall hadn’t been in an NHL fight since his rookie season 10 years ago, but here, at the start of the deciding game, he was ready to set the tone, blow for blow with beefy Scott Mayfield. Later it was Bruins big man Jarred Tinordi throwing (and absorbing) tedders with Islanders murderer Matt Martin. And in between, it was pretty much everyone, some were justified (like the blatantly missed cross-checks on David Krejci which eventually saw him retaliate with a stick in Barzal’s groin and thus make a trip to the penalty bench) and some of it’s just a reflection of the night.

There was action, pace, energy and passion. There were only people. Thank goodness for the people. People rise from their seats in unison to cheer or boo, people join their voices to chant ‘Tuuukkkaaa’ in the derisory way only an opposing crowd can, people wave their ugly orange towels in cyclones of hope , people slowly breathe the oxygen back into the world we have missed so much.

When all was spent and the teams returned to their respective locker rooms, ice baths and massage specialists were expected. At any other time of the year, players might have wished for a week off. But this respite does not exist. Playoff hockey isn’t for the weak.

But it is, once again, as we recalled so strongly on Saturday night, for the people. See you at the Garden, Bruins fans. It’s your turn to make yourself heard.

Tara Sullivan is a columnist for The Globe. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.


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