In front of more than 50,000 hockey fans at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night, the Rangers became the first NHL team to win three regular season outdoor games. A third period goal by Dan Carcillo proved to be the difference between the two New York clubs, as the Blueshirts gained a 2-1 win over the rival Islanders in temps that flirted with 20 degrees.
While the Islanders ran a full practice on the Yankee Stadium ice Tuesday, the Rangers retreated to their indoor MSG Training Center in Greenburgh, NY to prepare for the matchup.
The Rangers then took to the outdoors for the second game in four days. Only this time, the game went off without a hitch, as there would be no glare delay with the game being played under the stars at 7:45 PM.
Before the National Anthem and opening faceoff, CeeLo Green warmed up the crowd from the centerfield stage with some of his hits, followed by a rally call for both Isles and Ranger fans. Then came the puck drop, which garnered as much excitement as Sunday’s matchup between the Rangers and Devils.
The game started somewhat conservatively and it stayed that way throughout the first period. The Isles were careful not to allow the Blueshirts to break out on any odd-man rushes, which sparked the Rangers dominant second period against the Devils on Sunday.
The Rangers successfully killed off the first penalty of the game, which was an early Brad Richards hooking penalty, called only 3:24 into the opening period.
The best chance of the first period, however, came with just under four minutes remaining in the period when Rick Nash, who had goals in five straight games entering play, rushed into the Islanders zone on a one-on-one with Isles defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, and then pulled off a spin-o-rama that Evgeni Nabokov turned aside, yet it drew the fans from their frigid seats.
“You never really know about playing outdoors until you’re out there and see that great atmosphere,” said Nabokov of the Yankee Stadium ambiance. “I loved every second of it.”
At 17:57, Mats Zuccarello was called for interference in the offensive zone, however, the Islanders were unable to convert with the extra-man and finished the first period 0-for-2 on the power play … though still even on the scoreboard at 0-0.
The first half of the second stanza was more of the same as the teams played sound defensive hockey.
Then, at 10:11 of the second, Kyle Okposo was called for hooking, but Nash was called for diving, and was sent to the penalty box as well, leaving the two teams playing four aside.
Despite a dominating shift by Isles captain John Tavares in the open ice, possessing the puck in the Rangers zone for well over a minute straight, the Islanders were unable to finish.
At 12:59, the Rangers took their second offensive zone penalty of the night as Daniel Carcillo was called for roughing. For the third time, the Rangers managed to kill it off, allowing the Islanders only perimeter puck possession in the Rangers zone.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano commented on the poor power play effort saying, “Yeah, we talked about special teams being an integral part of this game. And you know, we had them early, and we didn’t capitalize on our chances.”
While the game had a C.C. Sabathia versus Matt Harvey feel, with both teams being shutout through 38 minutes and 33 seconds, the two clubs would score 40 seconds apart to close out the second period.
At 18:33, Brock Nelson would deposit a cross-ice pass made by a falling Cal Clutterbuck through Henrik Lundqvist’s pads to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead. Seconds later, at 19:13, Benoit Pouliot fired home a puck coming off the stick of Derick Brassard and evened the score at one apiece.
Brassard told former Islander and Ranger, Kevin Weekes, in the second period walk-off interview that, “We are just trying to get pucks deep and in-front of us,” alluding to the less-than-perfect outdoor ice.
Twenty-three seconds into the third period, Thomas Vanek hooked Nash, eliminating a solid scoring chance for the hottest Ranger, however, Vanek headed to the box. The Isles killed the penalty successfully by playing aggressively attacking the Ranger players allowing them no time.
At 4:36 into the third, the Islanders finally allowed an odd-man rush, and the Rangers made them pay. The Rangers entered the Islanders’ zone with a four-on-two break, and then the puck found a trailing Daniel Carcillo, who fired home a loose puck in the slot to give the Rangers their first lead of the night.
“Sometimes you get lucky,” said Carcillo of his game-winner. “It bounces on your stick and you have an open net.”
Despite the Isles pressuring the Rangers late in the third, the Blueshirts held on, and now have wins over the Flyers in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, and two in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Yankee Stadium.
For Carcillo, the goal marked the first game-winning goal as a Ranger, in his 11th game with the club.
Coach Alain Vigneault commented on Carcillo’s game, “He brings energy like we expected him to bring. He brings bite to that (fourth) line.”
The win has elevated the Rangers to second in the Metropolitan Division with 61 points, and now own an inside track to make the playoffs with less than 30 games to go in the season.
Meanwhile, the success in the outdoor games at Yankee Stadium could not have been any greater.
“It was simply an incredible two games at Yankee Stadium,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “I know they (fans) had a good time; nobody braves the elements like hockey fans. It was great to see. It was gratifying, and we’re thrilled at the response that Yankee Stadium and the New York metropolitan area gave all three teams.”