Once again, one goal prevented Mathew Barzal from getting his first chance at playing for the Stanley Cup.
The Coquitlam product fought to the last second for his New York Islanders' organization Friday (June 26), clocking in a lot of minutes in the final period of Game Seven against Tampa Bay to possibly light one more lamp.
But the final buzzer came sooner than expected in Florida and so did the end of his fourth professional season in the NHL.
The defending-champion Lightning clinched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final with a tight-knit 1-0 victory over Barzal's Isles and are set to face the Montreal Canadiens starting Monday (June 28).
BREAKING: Coquitlam’s Mathew Barzal falls short of playing for the Stanley Cup as — for a 2nd straight year — Tampa Bay eliminates the New York Islanders 4-3 in the NHL semi-final series. The 24-year-old combined for 14 points in 19 playoff games | #CoquitlamBC @TriCityNews pic.twitter.com/WFAFfXo956— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) June 26, 2021
This marked the second year in a row New York lost to Tampa in the third round of the playoffs after they fell on a game-six overtime goal a year ago in the 2020 bubble and brought back a sombre feeling for Barzal.
"It sucks getting back to this point coming up short again," the 24-year-old said during a post-game news conference, adding he was hoping to go the distance for several veterans that may have just played their last NHL game.
"You know, I've got a few more years, but we wanted to win for those guys and it hurts seeing those guys in the locker room afterwards given how close we were."
Barzal was hoping to help the four-time Stanley Cup-champion Islanders end their 37-year absence from the big dance after they forced the winner-take-all showdown by rallying to win Game Six on Wedneday (June 23) thanks to Anthony Beauvillier’s extra-frame goal.
But with the Lightning playing relentless defense — and outshooting New York 31-18 — opportunities were limited Friday night.
"Credit to them, they locked us up pretty good in the third period and we couldn't find one on a couple good chances, but it wasn't our time," said Barzal.
"Hopefully, we're back here next year and tell a different story."
The alum of the Coquitlam Express and Vancouver North East Chiefs led the Islanders in the playoffs this year, combining for six goals and 14 points in 19 contests
In the 2020-21 regular season, which was shortened to 56 games resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Barzal also led New York's stats sheet with 17 goals and 45 points in 55 starts.
- with a file from The Canadian Press