Having accumulated nine out of a possible 10 points in their last five games, the Islanders are rapidly emerging as a team serious about gaining a playoff berth.
This stunning revelation became more reality than dream on Flatbush Avenue as they topped the roller coaster Rangers 4-2 Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.
Still nestled atop the Metropolitan Division, the Blueshirts well-built cushion could afford a rip or two without many blemishes.
On the other hand — or stick as the case may be — the identity-seeking Islanders have been as desperate for points as a desert-straggler searching for water.
What’s more, they also were motivated to balance the Blueshirts scales, having lost to the Rangers on both clubs’ opening night, October 13th at The Garden.
For Jack Capuano‘s sextet, this was a case of “Turnabout is fair play” and the skipper can thank his goalie, Jaroslav Halak, who made 36 saves, not to mention emergency call-up defenseman Scott Mayfield, who scored the game’s first goal at 7:03 of the first period to give the Islanders huge boost.
“Jaro (Halak) kept us in the game,” said Cappy, “especially in the first period when he helped us kill a four-minute penalty that could have turned the game in the Rangers favor. And Mayfield’s goal, when it came, was big for us.”
OVERVIEW: The Rangers hit a hot team — four wins and an extra point in the last five games — and a goalie who usually has the Blueshirts’, plus Henrik Lundqvist‘s number. The Brooklynites killed all five of their penalties, including a four-minute Brock Nelson deal for high-sticking in the first period. When Nelson burst out of the sin bin, he fed Jason Chimera for the game’s second goal. From that point until the finish, the Rangers got close; and the Isles often bent, but never broke.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- ERSATZ POWER PLAY: Spending too long passing the puck instead of shooting, the Rangers failed to score on the power play, even though they amassed nearly 10 minutes of having an extra man on the ice.
- THE SKATING MISSING AND WOUNDED: The Blueshirts were plagued with injuries. Matt Puempel suffered what appeared to be a concussion after taking a high stick from Brock Nelson at 13:17 in the first. In the second period, Rick Nash seemed to tweak his groin. In the post-game scrum coach Alain Vigneault stated the team would know more details today (Wednesday). Plus, Michael Grabner took a leave of absence to return to his native Austria following the death of his grandmother.
- MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Out-shooting the opposition 38-32, the visitors often had ice command but failed to exploit those chances. In the final two minutes, with the Islanders twice penalized and Lundqvist pulled for an extra skater, the Rangers needed more pucks on net.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- MARC STAAL’S EFFORT: The veteran defenseman went plus-two and his goal in the second period cut the Islanders lead to one, putting the Rangers in a position to tie the game. More than half the game remained for the Blueshirts to knot the contest.
- JIMMY VESEY’S ASCENDING STAR: The rookie’s goal less than a minute into the second period should have set the stage for a visitor’s onslaught. Vesey already has nine goals for the season; third on the NHL rookie goal-scoring list.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- RANGERS COACH: “Frustrated? It’s not about frustration; it’s about winning and losing,” said coach Vigneault. “We have to look at what we did wrong and focus on playing in Winnipeg.”
- ISLANDERS COACH: “We beat a really good team,” asserted coach Capuano, “and our penalty-killers and goaltender made the difference. It was heartening to see Jason (Chimera) and Andrew (Ladd) have a good game.”
COMING UP NEXT: Depending on the seriousness of injuries, A.V. may have to scramble his lineup for the away games in Winnipeg and Chicago on Friday before returning home on Sunday to host the Devils. The Jets game will be televised on MSG Network.
The Islanders started the period with a too many men call at 2:45, but the Rangers were not able to produce and Mayfield quickly put the Isles on the board at 7:03
Later on that period, Chimera netted a goal as Nelson was leaving the penalty box at 17:24, putting the Isles up two-zip going into intermission.
The best part of the first? The Islanders penalty kill, which managed to end six minutes worth of power play on the Rangers end.
The Blueshirts opened the period with a Vesey goal 56 seconds in. While that might have appeared to have been the turning point in the match, Ladd netted a goal of his own at 2:18 to give the Isles another two-goal lead.
Staal scored at 8:54 of the period for the Rangers, bringing the game within one for the visitors going into the third period, but the Isles proved that the best was yet to come.
The Isles’ only power plays came in the final period. A hooking call against the Rangers Brandon Pirri at 10:30 allowed Captain John Tavares to snag a power play goal at 11:13, the turning point of the match.
Following Tavares’ goal, the Rangers seemed hungry to bring the game back within one; although they were out-shooting the Isles, terrific saves by Halak kept the score at 4-2 through the final buzzer.