The Islanders were dominated up and down throughout the opening 20 minutes, and yet the scoring chances they did have were dangerous enough to require fantastic Henrik Lundqvist saves to preserve a Rangers 2-0 lead. That gave a small hint that the Isles, as has been a pattern during their slow starts under Jack Capuano, would adjust and come out with a better second period. They did that. For a while.
They stormed back to tie it at 2-2 on two fantastic John Tavares assists, but then just as quickly let off the throttle, gave up a fluke-ish go-ahead goal to Ryan Callahan after a poor clear, and the wheels fell off when they failed to kill two admittedly dubious hooking penalties.
In a sense, their special teams failed them (there was also a Rangers shorthanded goal in the first), but more precisely it was the usual cascade of factors that feed each other in a hockey game, from the soft start to the timely saves and the special teams. For those looking for nice stories: Matt Moulson was tardily credited with his 30th goal for the second consecutive season, so congratulations to him, though I'm sure he'd prefer it come under better circumstances. Tavares had the two nice assists plus his 26th goal.
Notes from a Letdown
- The Rangers' shorthanded goal was just a massive breakdown. The first unit of Islanders forwards went for a change, and fresh Rangers changed too but pounced on the opportunity, streaming into the Islanders zone with the puck and crashing the net. Just coming on to the ice, Blake Comeau had a chance to box out the goal scorer Brandon Prust but lost that battle. It was a classic 4-on-5 goal where the PP team is caught ball watching because each guy assumes someone has the short team covered. That's actually a fun dynamic to watch in hockey...except when it's your team.
Nathan Lawson relieved Al Montoya after 40 minutes. Montoya did alright to keep it at just 2-0 as he faced 21 first-period shots. But he also benefited from a couple of posts, and the Rangers' second-period goals found holes. Certainly one of his weakest games as an Islander. Lawson faced 11 shots, gave up one to Marian Gaborik.
- Those were two pretty bad hooking calls on Comeau and Michael Grabner that enabled the Rangers to make it 4-2 and 5-2, but still: the PK failed. Grabner's penalty made it 5-on-3 because Travis Hamonic was already in the box for a bad frustration penalty, where he took a flailing swipe along the ice that tripped Ryan Callahan. Rookie mistake; he'll learn.
- FnGO Line: By their now-lofty standards, not a great game for the Kyle Okposo - Frans Nielsen - Michael Grabner line (they were even hemmed in their zone once). But they still had several moments of the danger we're accustomed to -- including a lengthy first-period stretch where Lundqvist was the only thing preventing multiple goals. By the end, they also had the best Corsi/Fenwick figures of any Isles line, but of course it was the JT line that was doing the finishing on this night.
- The shots were 47-28 overall and that probably tells the simplest story. 21-12 made for a wild first period, 15-5 made for a once-promising second period turned on its head by penalties and the failure to kill them. The end.
The Tired Yet Obligatory 'Why Do You Exist?' Lament: Remember kids, Sean Avery isn't dirty, he's just an agitator. That early check from behind on Micheal Haley -- Haley's numbers were staring at him -- he's lucky it didn't become a major. (I'm sure it was just a "hockey play.") If I were his coach, I'd have limited his ice time the way John Tortorella did. Avery went on to take another "typical Avery" goalie interference call when he swan dived on Al Montoya, followed by a high-sticking call on Justin DiBenedetto in garbage time that appeared to make Torts scratch his head (John Tavares scored on the powerplay). Little feller won't ever learn. He did more of his swan act in the crease in the third, and I wonder if Matt Martin's brief approach to Lundqvist's crease was a response. Again, if Lundqvist were my meal ticket, I wouldn't give the opposition any extra reasons to crowd his crease.
State of the Rivalry: Though penalties and special teams helped extend the margin of defeat, this is the second consecutive meeting that became a vastly outshot drubbing of the Isles. It's too early to crucify Capuano for not handling division rivals, right? (I kid. The truth is the Atlantic Division is tough no matter who your cruise director is. But two blowouts by the Rangers doesn't sit well.)
Fighting to Fight because Fighting is a Hockey Play: So Matt Martin and Michael Sauer fought late in the third, Martin eventually taking Sauer down. By the replay it looked like Sauer initiated the fight despite the linesman's effort to prevent it. Probably should fine the Islanders.
FIG Winner: They changed the scoring on us twice (Moulson's goal went off his skate and was originally credited to Hillen, who shot it), but we think the winner goes to O.Bender.
Back to backs Friday and Saturday in Carolina and Florida, which means Lawson and Montoya will almost certainly be splitting duties this time. Don't go away though; as always we'll have plenty to chew the fat on between now and then.