Henrik Lundqvist (and his thin red post friends) were the difference for the Rangers, turning away chance after Islanders chance all night. That's not to say that Evgeni Nabokov didn't do his part for the Isles. He did and was stellar all night, but an off balance Josh Bailey in overtime left the Rangers the mistake window they needed to take the game in overtime.
In the end though, because they got it to overtime, the Isles remain one point in front of the Rangers for the 7th overall seed (game in hand caveat) with 7 games to go.
In front of a sellout crowd, the derby was very intense in the first period right from puck drop with the crowd into it, chanting, whistling and cheering each side. The Isles jumped on the Rangers immediately and the Bailey, Nielsen, Okposo line hemmed the Rangers in for the first forty seconds.
Matt Martin brought some significant jump and was credited with 5 hits six minutes into the game. Colin McDonald took a penalty for a gigantic hit on Eminger that appeared to be clean. That led to a five on five skirmish in the Rangers zone with old pal Arron Asham negating the penalty with a roughing charge.
Nabokov seemed to be seeing the puck well with little traffic in front of him. Henrik Lundqvist stoned Matt Moulson on a one-timer (that he didn’t get all of) on the rebound of a Thomas Hickey shot. The Isles on the other hand were having difficulty containing Rick Nash, but Dave Lozo of NHL.com noted; in seven head to head shifts against Hamonic, he did not register a shot. He did have two on the period though, and Capuano would need to find a way to have that matchup more often.
The second period saw the Isles outplay the Rangers thoroughly only to be thwarted by Henrik &%$*#^ Lundqvist and his thin metal red friends. Early in the period, he stoned Moulson and Boyes on a tipped chance.
Nabokov saved a diving Darroll Powe shot with a big right pad save, but gave the Isles a couple of scares early on. He had a puck playing miscue behind the net that was centered to a streaking Ryan Callahan that Andrew MacDonald laid out to block. Later, a Derek Stepan tip beat him five hole and rang off the post and back toward him and he gently covered up.
Michael Grabner had a glorious chance in the slot but the sequence was shank, block save by Lundqvist. The last shot got through him, but he got enough of it to knock it off to the side of the net. That was followd by a Travis Hamonic tip of a Colin McDonald pass, but Lundqvist was in perfect position once again.
Then came another mark in a disturbing trend for superstar John Tavares. He became tied up with Carl Hagelin in the Rangers' zone and raised his hands toward the referee, stopped playing for a second, and when a call was not given, he punched Hagelin in the head and was flagged for a roughing penalty. That needs to stop. He is a superstar, he will be targeted, and if he continues to behave like that (particularly in a part of the season where referees are "letting them play") he will be the person penalized and be targeted worse and hurt his team. Fortunately, for the night, the Isles penalty kill was stellar. The power play...ehhh.
Later in the period, Okposo and Casey Cizikas would both be denied by the goal posts and a Boyes tip on a Moulson shot was kicked away by Lundqvist and the rebound just eluded the stick of Thomas Hickey who was crashing in from the defense.
The teams took the scoreless tie into the third and both looked to be concentrating on cranking up the defense and limiting shots. (6-3 for the period) Colin McDonald hit a post off of a pass from Michael Grabner to continue a frustrating trend.
This period also featured a few penalties that looked to be questionable. Matt Carkner was flagged for a hold on Brian Boyle which was probably drawn because Boyle went hard into the boards, but given the context of the game, the contact was pretty light. Later Lundqvist robbed Tavares with the glove off a beautiful wrist shot as JT and Matt Moulson came in on a two on one.
Steve Eminger was whistled for a light interference call on Okposo later and the Isles recently futile power play continued to struggle. They are 0-11 in the last 5 games and not only are they not converting, they obviously arent drawing power plays well either.
Late in the period (and carrying into overtime), Okposo was whistled for a slash on Dan Girardi on a hustling forecheck play that looked to be exacerbated by a composite stick.
The Isles were able to kill off the power play in overtime with the worst of it being a tough angle shot from Rick Nash with a rebound that Ryan Callahan couldn't locate before Nabby was able to cover up.
The winning score came at 3:11 of overtime when Derick Brassard was able to tread a pass to Dan Girardi while Josh Bailey was losing balance and falling. Griardi was able to cruise in and launch a wrist shot past Nabokov over his blocker.
A disappointing ending for sure, but the the rivalry is alive again in New York, and what fans got to see tonight is what (from what I remember) playoff hockey looks like. The Isles upped their physicality, skated hard throughout and didn't take a shift off. The amazing thing for me was that I watched the Flyers/Sabres game earlier in the day. That overpaid monstrosity was what the Isles have looked like over the past couple of years at this point in the season. It's nice to be on the other side of that.
Additional note; having Mike Bossy in the broadcast booth was a treat. His use of the "we" and "our" pronouns and how others from the dynasty era Isles have been speaking of the team has really helped to give some hope and nostalgia to this team. Hearing Bossy speak of this team's chemistry and confidence being similar to the evolution of the dynasty team means a lot.
Tweet of the night (Retweeted by Brendan Witt)