In what often seemed like a playoff atmosphere, the desperate Islanders invaded The Garden last night hoping eventually to catch either the Toronto Maple Leafs or Boston Bruins.
Naturally, the Rangers had no intentions of cooperating. After all, the Blueshirts were determined to launch a long-awaited winning streak at home.
This collision of objectives resulted in a collision of bodies, flying pucks, a classic fight and what-not. But when the dust had cleared, the visitors had obtained what they sought; a come-from-behind 3-2 victory.
As for the Rangers, their latest home loss continues to perplex critics let alone coach Alain Vigneault, especially since his outfit had the better of the play for a good portion of the evening.
OVERVIEW: When one team outshoots and outplays the other, as the Rangers did last night, logic would suggest that the Blueshirts should have won. But hockey is different. What the home club failed to do was bury the doughty Islanders when they had chances to do so. Twice, AV’s club allowed the visitors to rebound and tie the game. That being done, the Isles capitalized on a Michael Grabner penalty, going ahead to stay on Andrew Ladd‘s clutch goal.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- THOMAS GREISS: The Islanders goaltender — under intense scrutiny as a No. 1 goalie — saved his team with marvelous goaltending in the first period when the Rangers were overwhelming the enemy defense. He did ditto in the final frame when the pressure was at its height.
- KILLING PENALTY KILL: With four power plays, the Islanders scored on half of them including the game-winner by Ladd, his 20th of the season. The Blueshirts PK failed in the clutch.
- MISSED CHANCES: With 36 shots on Greiss, the Rangers often appeared ready to bust the game wide open, but they failed over and over again. Grabner, in particular, missed an open net with a possible third-period score. Instead, he fired the puck right into the goaltender’s logo.
- HOMERS? NO: Even when the Rangers play well at The Garden, they’ve been losing recently. The winless — virtually inexplicable — streak at home is up to seven games.
- SHOOT, NOT PASS: Too often, the Blueshirts looked to make the “pretty play” rather than fire on goal. The team plays best when it plays simple.
- BAD BOUNCES: With the Rangers ahead 2-1, Josh Ho-Sang skimmed a cross-ice pass that pinballed off the skates of both Anthony Beauvillier and Nikolay Kulemin , and past Antti Raanta. That tied the game and gave the Isles new life.
TURNING POINT: Grabner took a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass just past the half-way mark in the third. It took the Isles a little over a minute before Ladd beat Raanta for the winner.
BEST SAVE: Jimmy Vesey thought he had beaten Greiss with a wraparound midway in the second period, but the Isles puck-stopper nixed the deal with a pad save.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “We played a strong game, but got unlucky with bounces in the third period. The only way to get the right bounces is to continue to work hard and smart and that’s what this group is going to do.”
- RYAN MCDONAGH: “It (the loss) stings; especially giving up those power play goals.”
- DEREK STEPAN: “We have to solve the riddle (of not winning at home), but I don’t know the answer. We have to get it done before the playoffs.”
- ANTTI RAANTA: “We had so many good looks and our PK was working really good — then two bounces and the game is 3-2. We had lots of chances, but couldn’t get the tying goal.”
- ANDREW LADD: “It was nice to get my 20th goal of the season, but at this point, the good feeling is coming away with the two points and on to the next one.”
BOTTOM LINE: The Blueshirts played well — except when it came to finishing plays. For the second night in a row, Raanta was bested by the opposing goalie.
Based on past performances, the road trip should be a Rangers tonic!