Tonight, the Blueshirts crossed the East River to take on a team that actually wore blue shirts. The Islanders desperately needed these points to keep pace; the Rangers could’ve probably taken or left them.
The playoff races are tightening, with each game more important than the last. The trade deadline looms, two weeks away. So when you have two teams who have spent their share of recent time being historically terrible at hockey in Colorado and Buffalo, things like this happen:
(House lights down.) LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, here is your scout lineup at Avalanche-Sabres!!!!! pic.twitter.com/HtsKsXJS6R— Terry Frei (@TFrei) February 16, 2017
Good news: We’ve got a representative there. Bad news: It’s Claude Loiselle - you might know him as the the Leafs’ “capologist” that approved the David Clarkson contract a few years back. I forgot he was in the Isles front office until a couple of days ago, and I forgot again before tonight, so now I’m mad for the THIRD time.
Anyways, back to the game at hand. The Islanders were without Cal Clutterbuck and Travis Hamonic of course, but also Shane Prince, who missed his second straight game after leaving Sunday’s contest with the Avalanche - Stephen Gionta remained in. Adam Pelech, who had an especially rough game against Toronto the other night, took a seat in the press box and Scott Mayfield returned to the lineup. Thomas Greiss was the Isles goalie, with Henrik Lundqvist his opponent.
[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]
First Period: Broadway blues
The Islanders had two power plays within the first five minutesless than a minute into the game when Marc Staal was called for tripping, and had a second PP when Nick Holden took a hooking penalty (haha - see it’s funny because Holden took a hooking penalty instead of a holding penalty, amirite?).
Caulfield, I mean Holden, came out of the box and found himself in a 2-on-1 with Mats Zuccarello after Andrew Ladd and Calvin de Haan collided and took each other out of the play. Zuccarello passed off to Holden, who buried it past a sprawling Greiss.
The Islanders played a decent period but still went into the first break down a goal.
Second Period: Quick turnaround
The Islanders top line has been lethal of late - I feel like I’ve been writing that a lot. Only a few minutes into the period, after some extended offensive zone time, Thomas Hickey fired a shot around the boards. Mayfield pinched in and punched it back to John Tavares in the corner. Tavares hit Josh Bailey at the hashmarks, who then passed off to Anders Lee by the crease. Lee had to spin around (for what seemed like an eternity) before he was able to get his shot off, just under the stick of a diving Lundqvist to tie the game. Also, if you’re counting, the puck was touched by all five Islanders skaters in succession. Pretty sexy, if you ask me.
Within the next few minutes, with the Isles buzzing, they would take the lead. De Haan dumped the puck in behind the net, with Gionta forechecking. Gionta forced the puck away from Staal and flipped a backhand pass from behind the net to a hard-charging Ladd, who snuck it through the five-hole of Lundqvist.
As the period ended, Bailey was called for a double-minor high-stick to the face of Ryan McDonagh. The majority of the four minutes carried over to the final frame.
Third Period: SUCK IT!!!!!!!!!!
The Rangers were pushing hard on their four minute power play but weren’t able to generate a large number of shots. The Islanders pushed back, and Tavares the Wonder-Penalty-Kill-Boy struck again.
He and Nikolay Kulemin chased a cleared puck and managed a few shot attempts before the puck ended up behind the net for Tavares. From his office, he hit Kulemin in the slot, who buried the shot.
The two-goal lead wouldn’t last long, though. With six seconds remaining on the kill, Johnny Boychuk’s attempted clear up the boards was hit by Rick Nash. The puck popped out to Brady Skjei, who fired a shot from the point. The initial shot didn’t get through, but Nash was pushed into Greiss, allowing Jimmy Vesey to clean up the trash.
Doug Weight was livid about the potential goaltender interference and challenged the goal, not because of the contact made by Nash being shoved in, but that Nash got his stick under the pads of Greiss just beforehand, effectively removing him from the play. The challenge, quicker than most, was unsuccessful, further infuriating Weight.
The final ten minutes were extremely tense. The Rangers seemed to generate chances every time they found the puck inside the offensive zone. Still, Greiss stood tall and kept the score as was. Ladd sealed the deal with an empty-netter and nearly had another empty-netter for the hat trick.
There’s truly nothing like beating the Rangers. This was a huge win coming off the demolition that occurred the other night. With their games-in-hand slowly evaporating as the season expires, the Islanders can’t afford to lose any points in the race. Not losing in regulation in two consecutive games since December is a pretty good way to do that. Oh, and they beat the Rangers. :)
The Islanders return to action this weekend with a back-to-back, home-and-home series against the New Jersey Devils. They’re in Newark on Saturday night for a 7:00 p.m. matchup, and back at Barclays Center for a 6:00 p.m. date on Sunday evening. The two teams meet for the first and second times this season; they play the maximum number of five games against each other. Scheduling quirks are the best.
Speaking of scheduling quirks: after the home game against the Devils on Sunday, they begin their frighteningly long nine-game road trip that starts in the east, heads west, and doesn’t return to Brooklyn until March 13, for a date with the Hurricanes. Getting at least three points against New Jersey this weekend would be... prudent.