The New York Islanders needed two points tonight as they traveled to Madison Square Garden to face their crosstown rivals, the New York Rangers. Though they trailed early, the Isles stayed in the game and finally took the lead late in the game off an Andrew Ladd goal, where they held out for the win.
Unfortunately, the Toronto Maple Leafs also earned two points tonight, so the Isles are two points out of a wild card spot with a game in hand over the Boston Bruins. The playoff race in the Eastern Conference continues to be tight, but wins like the one tonight are crucial for the team in the standings and in their confidence going forward.
In a back and forth first period, the Islanders earned the first power play of the game, but failed to generate any offense, with the best chance of the man advantage coming from Michael Grabner on a shorthanded breakaway. John Tavares then took his first penalty of the game for tripping, but Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas had a chance on a 2 on 1, and Antti Raanta was up to the challenge. The period closed out 0-0, with both teams exchanging chances but the Rangers generating a few better looks.
While the first period was tentative, Mats Zuccarello set the tone of the second period early, with a quick shot off the post. He then scored on a power play, putting the Rangers up 1-0. The Isles responded quickly, off a great play starting in the defensive zone and transitioning up to offense. Josh Ho-Sang won a battle by the boards, passing the puck up to Nick Leddy who found Anthony Beauvillier, who carried the puck into the offensive zone and took a shot that was saved by Raanta. Raanta left a big rebound, and Anders Lee was in the right place to put the puck into a virtually empty net to tie the game at 1.
Tanner Glass and Scott Mayfield both received fighting majors after dropping the gloves, and Jason Chimera had a chance to give the Islanders the lead when he hit the crossbar on a backhand shot that had Raanta beat otherwise. At the other end of the ice, poor defensive play by the Isles handed the puck to Rick Nash, who muscled through the defense to give the Rangers the lead again, 2-1. The Isles nearly tied the game at the very last second when Andrew Ladd had a shot saved point blank by Antti Raanta.
The Islanders generated pressure early on, with Brock Nelson fanning on a shot in the slot and Nick Leddy hitting the crossbar. The Isles were able to draw a penalty, and Ho-Sang, who had been buzzing all game, got some puck luck as his pass into the slot was deflected first by Beauvillier’s skate and then by Nikolai Kulemin’s and past Raanta to tie the game.
The Islanders hadn’t scored two power play goals on the road in 13 months, per Eric Hornick, but that changed tonight as Andrew Ladd gave the Isles their first lead of the game with a goal on the man advantage off a nifty pass from Anders Lee.
Following Ladd’s goal, the Rangers brought offensive pressure, hemming the Isles in their own zone and generating a few excellent scoring chances, though they were unable to tie the game off the offensive drive.
The Rangers then pulled Raanta for the extra skater, but Zuccarello took a tripping penalty as Calvin de Haan tried to exit the zone. However, Lee took a weak penalty for tripping Brady Skjei with 9.9 seconds left in the game. The Isles were able to close the game out and win 3-2 in regulation, earning a crucial two points against their biggest rivals.
Quick Thoughts and Notes
Ryan Strome left the game in the second period after colliding awkwardly with Brady Skjei. The Isles diagnosed him with the all-inclusive upper body injury, but it looked like he may have injured his arm in the collision. He did not return, and the Isles may have to deal with some of their depth issues at forward once again if he’s out for an extended period of time.
Josh Ho-Sang continued to shine offensively, though he definitely needs to work on the defensive side of his game, as he was as dangerous in the offensive zone as he was a liability in defensive zone the entire game. However, Ho-Sang and Beauvillier seemed to play well together the entire game, contributing to two of the three goals scored by the Isles tonight. On the other hand, Tavares’ hat trick of penalties highlighted an uncharacteristically poor game from the captain, and the Islanders’ defense has been struggling, and the way they were hemmed in their own end multiple times by the Rangers tonight was not a positive sign going forward, and is definitely something that needs to be fixed if they want to continue to fight for a playoff spot.
Next, the Islanders take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins are in second place in the Metropolitan Division and have already clinched their spot in the playoffs.
However, they won’t be taking it easy as they continue to challenge the Capitals for first place in the division and for the President’s Trophy. It’ll be a challenge for the Islanders, but they’ll need to get at least get a point from Pittsburgh to be in good shape with their games in hand over the Bruins.