The Islanders played well through the first 40 minutes of this match with the Rangers, but still found a way to steal this victory. If that seems like a bit of a contradiction, well, watch a full replay of the third period and you’ll agree that they didn’t deserve to win this one. Which makes it even sweeter that they did.
Strome Tries to Show the Islanders What They’ve Been Missing
The game was only a few seconds old before Ross Johnston wanted to remind Cody McLeod what his fists smelled like, but McLeod wasn’t much of a willing combatant and Johnston was sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Former Islander Ryan Strome, traded to the Rangers from Edmonton in November, finished off a pretty passing play on the ensuing man advantage, one-timing a diagonal cross-ice pass from behind the goal line by Jimmy Vesey. The Blueshirts led the game within its first two minutes.
Barzal Fires Right Back
Mathew Barzal seemed to be steamed after that start to the game, and perhaps especially over McLeod not being penalized for his role in the scuffle early on, and scored a goal very similar to his first career NHL goal, right down to the play that led to it.
He stole the puck at the blue line and turned around for a one-on-one battle that he won easily, then deked around Henrik Lundqvist and flipped a backhand over his leg. His celebration spoke waves about how he feels playing the Rangers.
Eberle Reminds Strome Why He Was Traded
Shortly after Matt Martin tussled with McLeod around seven minutes in, Vesey tripped up Anthony Beauvillier, sending the Isles to their first power play. Jordan Eberle, the guy Strome was traded for, received a face-off dot-to-face-off dot pass from Anders Lee and, despite double-clutching, was able to snap the puck off Lundqvist and in. They would lead 2-1 to end the first, as Barzal collected another point.
Shattenkirk Ties It Early in the Second, But Lee Tips In Another [Sam Rosen voice] Power Play Goal!
The Rangers started off the second as quickly as they did the first with a goal from Kevin Shattenkirk at 1:11, but the tie was not permanent.
Marc Staal held onto Barzal, who drew yet another penalty, less than 30 seconds later. The resultant power play was one of the best the Islanders have had this season, as the first unit didn’t let it leave the offensive zone for the entirety of the minute and a half they were out there before Nick Leddy shot a one-timer from the blue line that caught Lee’s stick and the crossbar before the back of the net.
A Brutal Third Period, with a Side of Good Fortune
The third period was absolutely dreadful. The Islanders didn’t feel like playing the final 20 minutes of the game, instead allowing the Rangers to take the first 17 shots on goal of the period. Somehow, the only goal they allowed was a total fluke; in the midst of one of the Rangers’ flurries, the puck popped approximately 15-20 feet into the air, and on the way down, Jesper Fast took a golf swing at it and it got past Robin Lehner, who was stunning otherwise throughout the third.
The Islanders did only manage one shot in the third, with only a minute and a half remaining in regulation, and it turned out to be extremely successful. Cal Clutterbuck, of all friggin’ people, cruised down the right side boards and sent a gorgeous pass to Josh Bailey cutting into the slot, and his one-timed wrister beat Lundqvist before the Rangers goalie could get over. His reaction, with his face pressed into the ice, was priceless as an Islander fan, but sad as a hockey fan. After that third period effort, this victory was not deserved, but the Islanders snuck out of Madison Square Garden with a 4-3 win in regulation, sending the Rangers to their 5th straight loss.
This rivalry seems to have been fully ignited for the first time in a while, and they play each other again Saturday afternoon at Barclays Center. It should extremely fun.