The New York Islanders thumped their surging city rivals up and down the ice, smothering the New York Rangers for savory 3-0 whiteout in front of some of the Rangers home fans at Madison Square Garden.
The Isles started strong with the puck in the first period but it was tight enough -- and the chances few enough -- that the frame could have gone either direction. Most of the Isles shots were from non-dangerous places. Both teams were fairly disciplined, and the Rangers had the best chance.
But the Isles turned it up a notch as they spread three goals throughout the second period, and that was by far all that was needed as Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves for steady but mostly uneventful shutout.
The Rangers said they were worried about the first game back from a long road trip, and they were right to be. The Islanders said they just needed to focus on their own game, and boy did they ever.
How It All Went Down (Besides 'Beautifully,' I Mean)
Things could have taken a different turn -- because isn't that hockey -- when the Rangers hit two (well, technically three) posts while it was still scoreless in the first period. One shot was handled by Halak but sliced off his body to at least create that never-tingling ping off the goal frame.
Later, a much better opportunity: Derick Brassard had a wide open net after Rick Nash rang the puck off the post but hit both posts instead.
As Leboff wrote in the day's tone-setter, channeling Viktor Kozlov, "Sometimes the puck goes in and sometimes it does not."
The Isles also hit a post as well as a "sometimes the puck goes in, but sometimes the refs say it should not" moment when Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin crashed the net and the puck went crossed the line ... but Cizikas had become tangled with Henrik Lundqvist, so the refs ruled it off as incidental goalie interference.
After the double-post, Halak covered, and the Rangers didn't seem to threaten for another 40 minutes.
The second period was a slaughter.
It was so dominant, it made the final 20 minutes a formality, even for an Isles team that had lost a couple of three-goal third-period leads this year.
The Islanders just pushed and pushed, cycled and cycled, hemmed and hemmed. First game a goal at 8:49 from Anders Lee, a great, precise whack at a rebound after the Isles won a faceoff and sent alternating volleys to the net.
Then, after more shifts of pressure but no reward, the forecheck won again: A poor Rangers pass to the slot was intercepted, Thomas Hickey danced in from the point to create a near-setup of Michael Grabner that went to the corner. Ryan Strome retrieved and fed the front. Nikolay Kulemin found the bouncing puck, kicked it to his blade and rifled it off the crossbar over a crouched Henrik Lundqvist.
Then, just when the Rangers had a chance to get back in the game with a power play for the final minute of the period, mean Frans Nielsen goes and leads a 2-on-1, scoring the shortie himself through a hole in Lundqvist's armor (a hole that probably shouldn't be there but then theologians can't explain Frans Nielsen).
For the third period, the Rangers brought in Cam Talbot as a mercy move. They didn't like the "energy" the team was showing.
Not much changed, and the Isles professionally sealed the game away, to the sounds of "Let's Go Islanders!" ringing throughout the Garden.
Johnny Boychuk pancaking Rick Nash on his tush made for a delightful sight live and even a better replay:
(via the esteemed Steph, @myregularface)
Other Memorable Things
- Beastly game from Anders Lee all around, being a nuisance in front of the net, getting the opening goal on a great net whack, still charging for more in the third while leading 3-0.
- Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, lots of notable nice plays by Isles defensemen at both ends of the rink. (Obligatory Nick Leddy mention here, but it's a nightly given at this point.)
- Fun to see Dan Boyle mixing it up with the Isles during the needless end-of-game scrum (which began with Travis Hamonic trying to nail Lee Stempniak, only to fall on his rear). Not that anyone needed anything to happen to Boyle; just the visual was a reminder of a summer that worked out beautifully.
- The Isles on faceoffs: Magnificent when it mattered, still a 54-46% advantage by the end of 60 minutes.
- The ability to stay out of the box: Win-win. The Isles are superior than most at even strength, not so much on the PK. Keeping the game at 5-on-5 for wave after wave enabled them to break through.
Quote(s) of the Night
I tend not to listen to the MSG team, but sometimes it's fun. So let's turn tonight's honors over to the gracious hosts:
"Feels like the Rangers haven't even touched the puck this period."
- Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti, second period
That was about six minutes into the middle frame. It didn't change.
"This place is quiet."
- Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti, third period
I don't know, it was kinda noisy after Isles goals.
"The shots just aren't getting through."
"No, they have a 3-0 lead, but they're still playing the same way."
- Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti, third period
The funny thing about all this is even in the Islanders' recent bad years, the two sides of this rivalry have tended to be better in the other team's building. So winning twice at the Garden is great but not unheard of. The Rangers will have three shots at revenge on visits to the Coliseum in the months ahead.
And we're quite sure you are looking forward to every one of them.
Oh, the Penguins are next, on Friday? This is getting fun. The Penguins destroyed the Wild tonight, so the Isles win was necessary to stay a point ahead for first place in the Metro.