The first episode of the 2013-14 Battle of New York brought all the expected intensity and a close game with multiple lead changes, but contrasting fortunes on the power play and a late mistake left the Islanders as the loser, 3-2, in the only game of this season's series to be played at Nassau Coliseum.
Wearing number 26, Thomas Vanek was an interesting addition to the top line. He showed his strength around the puck and on the boards, but he clearly has some work to do with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo to figure out how they can work as the Islanders hope.
The teams traded leads throughout the game, with the second-ranked Islanders power play failing and the 20th-ranked Rangers power play cashing in twice. The Rangers scored the winner with under seven minutes left in regulation after Radek Martinek completely whiffed on a check of Benoit Pouliot, leaving Martinek covering no one and Poulliot open for an uncontested shot from the low slot.
Evgeni Nabokov had made some excellent saves in the first two periods, but he couldn't bail out his team on Pouliot's winner after the coverage mix-up left him out to dry. Can't blame him for any of the goals, but with 24 shots against you still hope he can pull a few more game savers off to keep it below three goals against.
First Period: First Blood
The Islanders had the better of play during the first period but gave up the most dangerous chances, asking Evgeni Nabokov to make key point-blank saves on two or three of the Rangers' four shots in the period. The one that went in was another point-blank chance, Andrew MacDonald regrettably tipping Brad Richards' point shot and changing its direction on Nabokov, leading to a fat and easy rebound for Chris Kreider.
The Isles controlled more of the play and outshot the Rangers 9-4, but their chances were less threatening. Thomas Vanek may have been closest on a rebound backhand attempt that Cam Talbot had to move well to block. Josh Bailey also continued to use his creativity to drive the net with the puck.
Second Period: Reversal
The second period opened the opposite way: Kyle Okposo took his second minor penalty of the game early on, and the Rangers power play had the Isles hemmed in for nearly the entire two minutes. Good fortune and Nabby kept the lead from reaching 2-0, despite several clearing attempts that failed to pass the blueline.
Then, against the run of play and despite the Rangers' control, the Islanders equalized on a newcomer's first goal. Not Vanek, but Cal Clutterbuck was the one to get his first goal as an Islander when he took advantage of Marc Staal's misplay at the Islanders blueline and led a two-on-one with Michael Grabner. Clutterbuck briefly faked pass and then simply sniped the shot over Talbot's shoulder. Matt Carkner was credited with an assist on the play, which is funny when you consider how absolutely little he had to do with the goal.
Clutterbuck's goal leveled the score at 1-1 and seemed to level play too. Next up was a Matt Martin fight with Derek Dorsett that produced no highlight punches but was probably a decision for Martin. (Dorsett is generally an disliked chirping fellow.)
The Isles then took the lead with the oddest of goals. Travis Hamonic took the carom of Andrew MacDonald's shot off the end boards and put it toward net, watching it deflect off Dan Girardi's glove and
flutter off Peter Regin [note: 16 hours later, they've finally changed the scoring on this. It's Hamonic's goal.] and over the line.
Third Period: Reverse the Reversal
The third period brought yet another lead change. The Islanders had a bad change causing a too many men on the ice penalty, and the Rangers tied it on Ryan McDonagh's goal. The Isles created multiple chances and looked to find the winner before things turned dramatically on Pouliot's goal.
Notes of This & That
- So Butch Goring really cares about faceoffs. The Islanders were losing a lot tonight. Butch mentioned it often. (Don't get me wrong, they matter. But they exist in that fleeting area of life where you'd prefer to win them but know you will lose your share, and you never know which loss will be a costly one.
- Jack Capuano was livid in a way we rarely see on the bench after the too many men on the ice call in the third period. As the TV replay showed, he didn't have a case to argue the call -- unless he was arguing that the linesmen had missed two Rangers too many men infractions earlier in the game.
- Soon after that penalty produced the Rangers tying goal, Michael Grabner was hooked as he split the defense, with no call. The temperature behind the Islanders bench had to be elevating.
- The Rangers lost Dominic [sic] Moore early on to an "upper body injury." That's a factor. Considering all the players the Rangers were missing to injury, they should be better than their first 11 games showed.
- Of course, the Islanders continue to show how much they miss Lubomir Visnovsky. Generally a good game from them, but things are just a little less calm and organized without him.
- On that note, Matt Donovan was really good tonight. His puck movement and patience created several chances and near-chances.
- Radek Martinek, who was having a decent game (some nice classic Martinek plays, some mistakes), inexcusably passed up one golden scoring chance to attempt a pass instead. The pass didn't connect, and a shot never resulted. His game went from decent to unforgivable when he completely missed the check on Benoit Poulliot's winning goal.
- The Islanders previously hot power play floundered again, and that may have been the difference in the game: They misfired on three attempts yielding only two shots on goal, while the Rangers converted on two of theirs. Overall shots for the game were 24-24, a fair reflection of how things went.
- The game closed with some silliness involving Dorsett, Clutterbuck, Brad Richards an dothers scrumming at the final whistle, but nothing of significance. Two teams finishing a battle and ironing out grudges.
Next up, the Islanders will try to bounce back in Ottawa against the Senators Friday night.
More from Lighthouse Hockey:
- Thomas Vanek Trade Reports: Sabres retained salary in offers to Islanders, Maple Leafs
- [Gameday Bits] Unleash the Vanek! Plus Other, Non-Vanek News.
- Thomas Vanek - Matt Moulson Trade: Players react at morning skates
- Thomas Vanek Trade: Garth Snow speaks on big Islanders move
- Thomas Vanek Trade: Matt Moulson sounds dumped, because he kind of was