Martin Biron made the early saves he needed to, Evgeni Nabokov missed a few that would have helped, and two Islanders mistakes were the margin of defeat as the New York Islanders fell to the New York Rangers 4-2 at Madison Square Garden.
During what was a crazy first period with many shots onBrandon Dubinsky opened scoring with an end-to-end rush in which he passed John Tavares, made barely a speed bump of P.A. Parenteau, and was ceded space by Mark Streit to beat Nabokov far side.(the rebounds cleaned up by the Islanders defense) and some dangerous standalone chances stopped by ,
The Islanders would tie it once, but they were stuck playing catch-up most of the game. After falling behind 3-1 and grabbing one back to make it interesting, a John Mitchell empty net goal sealed it after yet another comical pulled goalie display by the Isles.
Parenteau atoned quickly for the first goal (though he'd take a weak and time-consuming penalty late in the third), answering early in the second with a powerplay goal on a backhand at the doorstep.
By flow it was mostly an even game (shots: 26-25 for the Isles), though Marian Gaborik was probably the most dangerous threat on the ice and each team's top line traded chances that could've broken the game open at any point.
After a first period that wasn't short on hair-raising chances but lacked that physical flair of a derby rivalry, things also got a little more bitter as the game wore on. We'll see if any of the rough stuff carries over to the other side of the weekend holiday.
Mistakes: The first goal was already described above, with Parenteau, Streit and Nabokov each playing their part. ... The second go-ahead goal by the Rangers may have been uglier, with a breakdown on the faceoff against the FNGO line allowing Gaborik (oh, is he dangerous?) to receive a pass uncovered in front of Nabokov, around whom he easily tucked the puck for his 20th goal.
Jack Capuano on that one:
“That’s something as coaches that we take pride in and something as coaches we show them before the game,” Capuano said. “It was exactly the same two guys (Anisimov and Gaborik) that set up against us last time and we knew it could have been coming. That was a big goal there.”
The third Rangers goal wasn't so much a mistake as a really nice bounce on a deflected pass settling on a tee for Michael Del Zotto. You'd prefer Nabokov stop that one too, but it was a heck of a blast in an unexpected context.
Stu Bickel does a Dumb Thing: Bickel bear-hugged Tim Wallace during a third-period scrum, no doubt showing some superior mastery of the testosterone arts. After lots and lots of talking, they finally agree to fight and Wallace (who wears a visor) began to undo his chin strap to remove his helmet ... but Bickel (who does not wear a visor) took the moment to
Avery jump Wallace ahead of time. When proving one's badass qualities, one might accept when one is extended common courtesy rather than use it as a chance to gain an ungentlemanly advantage. Bickel got the extra two, and Matt Moulson scored his team-leading 16th goal on the ensuing powerplay to make things interesting for the rest of the third.
(In the post-game, John Tortorella was puzzled and said that call could go either way -- and he's right. I just figured it was a karma penalty for Bickel for taking so long to fight, then only jumping in when Wallace had one hand fumbling with his chin strap.)
Bickel had fought Matt Martin by faceoff appointment earlier in the third period. Like his tussle with Wallace, that altercation was uneventful.
Woe, Nino: Clumsy sequence for rookie Nino Niederreiter, who took the puck down the right wing boards, tried to do a Tavares-like pull-up move but fell when his feet tangled with Ryan McDonagh, then took McDonagh's feet out when he swiped his stick from his stomach. No shot, and a minor penalty for his troubles.
Mark Eaton Returns: Not that he's an agile speed demon to begin with, but I can't say I noticed any mobility issues for Mark Eaton in his first game since returning from the knee sprain.
Refs Nearly Blow It: Goodness, Mike Mottau should have been called for icing in the dying minutes but the officials waived it off while Biron indicated icing was in effect. Assuming Biron was correct, the Rangers did merely a touch-up and Kyle Okposo swooped in to pick up the puck for a dangerous wraparound and rebound that Biron froze. That would have made for some fun drama, but the hockey gods only teased with the threat of intervention.
Yet Another Empty-Net Cock-Up
(This one deserved its own separate bold heading.)
Whether pulling the goalie comically early, not getting the puck in deep with said goalie out, or not having any coherent plan for 6-on-5 at all (rendering the whole idea of pulling early moot), all season long the Islanders have made a mess of things with the goalie pulled. Tonight was no different as Nabokov came out of the net as Frans Nielsen rushed the puck through the neutral zone. Nielsen was stopped by a line of bodies at the Rangers blueline though (whether he did not know the goalie was pulled or whether he just tried to do too much, we don't know). John Mitchell easily carried the puck over the red line and deposited it into the empty net.
Nielsen on the play in the Isles recap:
“I should have known he was coming, but we were all gassed,” Nielsen said. “I didn’t want to just put it in there and give the puck away, so I tried to hold on to it and I didn’t know he was coming off the net to the bench. It was a tough one.”
Travis Hamonic's expression was likewise one of a guy who'd just seen his team royally miscommunicate. Again. His outstretched WTH?! arms were speaking the frustration of thousands of Islanders fans. One day he'll be joined by better teammates who are as able, driven and hockey-smart as he. In the mean time, these mistakes cost.
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These two teams are back at it again Monday, but first they have a holiday and a game tomorrow night, with the Rangers taking on their [NBC event] rival Flyers and the Islanders hosting the Maple Leafs. The Rangers were able to save Henrik Lundqvist for that bigger game against a bigger opponent, and Martin Biron proved that decision a good one. For shame.