Nothing goes quite as expected when a 10-3-1 team loses at home to a 3-7-1 team. Except that, true to form, the Islanders and Rangers once again put on an unpredictable show at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers power play has struggled, sure -- but for it to lose to the Islanders by giving up two shorthanded goals? That's pushing it. But that's what happened after the team's played to a safety-first 0-0 stalemate through two periods. A key to getting that far was Joey MacDonald, who had 35 saves on the game in his continuing effort to justify the one-way contract faith Garth Snow has placed in him as Rick DiPietro's backup injury replacement.
Nate Thompson scored his first NHL goal by batting a rebound out of the air after Frans Nielsen just missed on a shorthanded rush. Richard Park sent a precision-laser by Henrik Lundqvist's stick-side arm on a second shorthanded rush. When Tom Renney pulled Lundqvist for a sixth attacker with two minutes left, the Rangers got one back to make it 2-1.
But the signature play of the night may have been Trent Hunter diving to block a point shot -- the rebound of which left the defensive zone -- in the game's dying seconds. After blowing it vs. Montreal and blowing it but redeeming in OT vs. Columbus, this time the Isles pulled it out. In their third game in four nights, it was the third try, against their fiercest rivals, which finally got the Islanders to show they can hold a third-period lead.
This season-long work in progress continues ... with a little dose of hope.