The New York Islanders returned proper balance to the Battle of New York and got points in their fifth consecutive game with a 4-2 win over their derby rivals in Brooklyn. Their 4-0-1 run includes three regulation wins over three of the top four teams in the Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders penalty kill was key through the first two periods, no one more than Jaroslav Halak as he stopped 11 shots on four Rangers power plays — two of which consisted of a double minor on Brock Nelson — which helps explain the 27-22 shot differential through the first 40 minutes.
The Islanders by contrast did not receive an opportunity for their 30th-place power play until five minutes into the third period. That shotless man advantage did nothing to dispel the notion that the unit’s ranking is deserved.
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Let’s Enjoy Some Goals, Eh?
But throughout all that, the Islanders got the timely scoring they’ve so often lacked this season. They never trailed in the game, repeatedly building a two-goal lead each time the Rangers got one back.
It started with a.m. emergency recall Scott Mayfield’s second NHL goal seven minutes into the game:
We you @scottmayfield2. #Isles #NYRvsNYI pic.twitter.com/b0cAo26EKA— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 7, 2016
Here was what put Nelson in the box, and gave the Rangers one of their two key forward injuries in the game:
Nelson cross check on Puempel. Looked borderline, definitely high sticking/double minor. pic.twitter.com/0TBMs6X5VV— Dave Shapiro (@BlueSeatBlogs) December 7, 2016
Just as Nelson emerged from the box, he hustled to set up Jason Chimera to double the lead on a goal that can be described as #greasy and full of “good things happen when you go to the net” broadcasting shorthand.
Thanks for that one Chimmer. #Isles #NYRvsNYI pic.twitter.com/OqJZDsfhhN— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 7, 2016
It’s an Isles-Rangers game though, so nothing would be as easy as all that. The Rangers cut into the lead immediately in the second period, Jimmy Vesey scoring 56 seconds in.
Enabling a little easier breathing, Andrew Ladd responded a minute later. He finished a pretty transition goal that was started by his between-the-legs pass in the neutral zone coming off of a turnover, and required a fortunate rebound and good work from Shane Prince and Ryan Strome.
Another look at @aladd16's goal in the second. #NYRvsNYI #Isles pic.twitter.com/1OabwdYdsB— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 7, 2016
Though Marc Staal cut the lead to 3-2 five minutes later, the Isles finished out the period still holding the lead. They likely benefited from Rick Nash leaving with a groin injury and Matt Puempel suffering a suspected concussion.
And in the third period finally, they received a power play — the aforementioned abysmal one — and not long after that, another.
This one was much better, its result much needed. Their movement was better, they had much more zone time and pressure, and displayed the required energy to evade the Rangers aggressive penalty kill (aggressive even without Michael Grabner, home in Austria for a family funeral).
John Tavares provided an emphatic finish on a great inside-the-post snipe after a disruptive cross-ice pass by Josh Bailey.
That made it 4-2, and Tavares had another open chance to double their insurance as the Isles continued to press rather than sit back on their two goal lead. Maybe something about the rivalry brings out the urgency needed to do that.
Regardless, the rest of the third period was refreshingly competent, almost comfortable (as comfortable as a two-goal lead in this series can ever be). Even when the Rangers received a power play with Henrik Lundqvist pulled for a sixth attacker, and then another to make it a six-on-three, the two-goal lead seemed safe.
And it was safe, making for a good, satisfying result.
But one glance at the standings reminds us they would need soooo much more of that, for much longer than a five-game stretch, to put themselves back in any role but spoiler.
About the Officiating
Horrible. Not even complaining about the run of Rangers power plays to open the game; rather the unconscionable inconsistency exhibited throughout the game, from interference to hooking to slashing sticks out of hands (okay sometimes, not okay when the Isles were already a man short with the Smurfs’ net pulled).
Enough of all that.
This rivalry does not resume until games in February and March.
Next on the schedule, the St. Louis Blues visit Thursday night. But hey, the last week has shown taking down the top teams is no sweat, right?