NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — It's time for the New York Islanders to lower the Hall of Fame and Stanley Cup banners from the rafters, and pack up their pucks and sticks.
The Islanders are leaving behind their boisterous and "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chanting fans at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for far newer digs at Barclays Center. The end of a 43-year era at what became called "The Old Barn" in Uniondale, New York, ended on Monday night with a 2-1 loss at Washington in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series.
"We wanted to get back home," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "(Islanders fans) were definitely in our thoughts."
It was an all-too-familiar exit for a four-time Cup-winning franchise that has spent the past two decades searching to regain its once-proud Billy Smith stick-swinging and Mike Bossy goal-scoring once-proud identity.
The Islanders were eliminated in the first round for the seventh straight time, dating to 1994. That's a disappointing end to a year in which New York's 47 wins were the team's most since winning 50 in 1983-84.
Injuries were an issue. New York opened the playoffs minus top defenseman Travis Hamonic, and then lost two more regulars — Lubomir Visnovsky and Calvin de Haan — to injuries. Hamonic on Tuesday revealed he tore a ligament in his left knee in the second-to-last game of the season. De Haan said he sprained his shoulder in Game 5 against Washington.
The Islanders' offense also evaporated. After finishing fourth in averaging 2.99 goals per game during the regular season, New York scored 15 against Washington overall, and just six in its final four games. And the Islanders managed just 11 shots in Game 7 against the Capitals.
"There's definitely lessons to be learned," forward Cal Clutterbuck said. "I can promise you the next time we're in a Game 7, guys will feel a little more comfortable and it'll be a different game. That'll be a positive down the road somewhere."
That road will take them 25 miles west of their current home.
Here are some things to know about the Islanders heading into the offseason:
The Islanders' core group of leaders — from captain John Tavares to goalie Jaroslav Halak — are all back for next season. Tavares scored a career-best 38 goals and finished second in the NHL with 86 points. Halak set a franchise record with 38 wins in his first season in New York.
Among those also under contract next season are forwards Kyle Okposo and Ryan Strome, and newly acquired defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, who signed seven-year contract extensions this season.
The Islanders have the right to retain forwards Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, and defenseman Thomas Hickey, who are eligible to become restricted free agents this summer. Visnovsky is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Islanders went 0-for-14 on the power play against Washington after converting 50 of 267 chances to finish 16th in the regular season. Capuano specifically referred to the unit's lack of production in a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 4, when the Isles squandered three straight power-play chances in the second period.
Barring a trade, the Islanders won't have a first-round draft pick in June after sending it to the Buffalo Sabres in a deal to acquire Thomas Vanek in October 2013. Buffalo also acquired the Islanders' 2015 second-round pick, but New York added a second-rounder by trading defenseman Andrew MacDonald to Philadelphia in March 2014.
POINT OF NO RETURN
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman left little hope for the Islanders returning to Nassau Coliseum ever again. Speaking to Associated Press Sports Editors on Friday, Bettman referred to the facility being "well past its due date."
He placed the blame on the region's politicians, who failed numerous times to approve plans for a new arena.
"They've had their time to do what has to be done," Bettman said. "If something else materializes, we can all deal with it at the time. But I'm not focused on anything going on, because their track record is terrible."
Nassau County Executive Director Ed Mangano responded in an email to The Associated Press by writing: "Now the job at hand is to build the new Coliseum rather than debate the past."
The Islanders lost a playoff series to the Capitals for only the second time in seven meetings. ... New York was outscored 7-3 in the third period by the Capitals and 16-15 overall. ... The Islanders' playoff record in Game 7 dropped to 3-5, with four of those losses coming on the road. ... Isles defensemen combined for no goals and 11 assists, five by Leddy.
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