So much for showing him what he was missing.
Artemi Panarin welcomed himself to the Battle of New York with a five-point night and the Islanders were run out of Madison Square Garden tonight in the first meeting between the cross-town rivals.
The Islanders got off to a really fast start, scoring a goal 18 seconds into the game, and flew all over the ice for a short time after that. But two consecutive fights seemed to kick-start the Rangers and their vaunted offense skated circles around the Islanders until they had a two-goal lead.
At that point, Alexandar Georgiev shut the door. His play, combined with a starry night for Panarin and general malaise on the Islanders side of things, gave the Rangers the first victory in the season series. Decisively.
First game since his injury the #Isles really miss Adam Pelech. Had been pretty solid defensively without him. Not tonight.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) January 14, 2020
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Jordan Eberle celebrated his 700th NHL game by scoring a beautiful goal on the opening shift. The Islanders got the puck deep off the first face-off and Eberle retrieved it. Instead of firing right away, he found a wide open lane toward Alexandar Georgiev created by the Rangers’ porous defense. He drew Georgiev out of his crease and had him flailing, and as he hit the goal line, Eberle sneaked the puck around him and in. That would be the only positive highlight of the night, but we didn’t know it yet.
Then, the game got physical. Micheal Haley and Ross Johnston, lined up next to each other for a face-off, agreed to tussle once the puck dropped. But it wasn’t really a fight. More like Johnston just pummeling Haley. And then, before the next puck dropped, Brendan Smith and Matt Martin did battle. That fight was more even, but both guys got tossed from the game because there’s a rule that states the participants in a second fight in the same stoppage automatically get game misconducts.
The Islanders had dominated up to that point, but the fights seemed to energize the Rangers a bit more. They began to swarm and it paid immediate dividends. Artemi Panarin put on a clinic and the Islanders couldn’t keep up. A broken play in which Jesper Fast may have slashed Nick Leddy’s stick from his hands resulted in Fast collecting the rebound from a Panarin shot and tying the game.
Mathew Barzal was penalized right after that and the Rangers kept the pressure up through the end of that man advantage and the period.
The Rangers continued to control the game as their high-powered offense took over the ice and the depleted Islanders struggled to maintain anything close to their structure. The Islanders were playing 6-on-5 on a delayed penalty call against Tony DeAngelo and, ominously, Derick Brassard swung and missed on bouncing puck off the boards while he was standing in front of a wide open net. The Islanders didn’t do much with the man advantage they received and then the Rangers opened the game up.
During some of the extensive offensive zone time the Rangers accumulated, Panarin cruised around by the blueline and flicked the puck toward the net. Chris Kreider won the positioning battle against Devon Toews and he caught the Panarin shot up high to give the Rangers the lead. It looked like it might be a high-stick, but the refs reviewed it for like 20 seconds and confirmed the goal, so that’s that.
Later, Adam Fox skated down the wing on the outside of the face-off circle and gave the puck an innocent toss toward Semyon Varlamov’s short side. Somehow, the puck slipped between Varlamov’s skate and the pipe and gave the Rangers 3-1 lead. Panarin got his third assist of the night on that one.
The Islanders turned it on quite a bit after that and got the puck down low on more than one occasion, but Georgiev was all over it.
The Rangers jumped out to a three-goal lead under a minute into the third period, effectively sealing the deal. Barzal skated into the offensive zone and, finding no help, tried to force the pass into the middle up the by the blueline. Panarin got in front of the pass and sprung himself on a breakaway. Scott Mayfield took about three penalties chasing him but it made no difference as Panarin backhanded the puck over Varlamov’s pad. Varlamov didn’t move much at all on the goal and left his short side wide open.
Everybody seemed to know how this game was going to finish up because after that, the Islanders essentially stopped trying. Unsurprisingly, Panarin scored again after he literally waltzed past the Islanders’ defense and potted a Ryan Strome feed.
The kicker was the sixth Rangers’ goal, the first one Panarin didn’t factor into. Off the first face-off of a penalty kill, the Rangers worked it out to Jacob Trouba at the point. During his shot, Varlamov literally stumbled over and Trouba had a warm-ups look. Barry Trotz spared Varlamov any more embarrassment and put Thomas Greiss in for him.
Nelson did swat in a floating puck on a late Isles power play to reduce the deficit slightly, and Nelson ran into Mika Zibenajad, which resulted in some more rough stuff, but the result was never in doubt.
- Artemi Panarin had five points tonight. I think I jinxed that one this morning in the Bits, folks. My apologies. Off to the guillotine with me.
- Glad that Ryan Strome seems to have found a permanent home. Some of it inflation via Panarin, but he’s still playing well.
- Alexandar Georgiev plays well against the Islanders. He’s stoned them in the past, and after the first goal, in which his defense hung him out to dry, he stopped everything he saw. He might be quite good, and since he’ll probably be the odd man out of that three-headed goalie monster, the Rangers could get a decent return for him. Unless Henrik Lundqvist retires, or something.
- Speaking of “hung him out to dry:” the Rangers definitely have strong offense, but the Islanders defense looked over-matched at best and abysmal at worst. As Arthur Staple’s above tweet hints, the lack of Adam Pelech was felt tonight. The team got away entirely from the structure that makes it successful, a common theme in their losses. Semyon Varlamov had a few howlers (more on him in a second), but the Rangers walked all over them, embarrassingly so.
here are your charts for tonight pic.twitter.com/s5IyiGILLf— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) January 14, 2020
- Barry Trotz’s face during the game said it all; his post-gamer confirmed his general disgust with the team tonight, save for Jordan Eberle. He had a pretty good game, even though it was wasted.
- Back to Varlamov. Woof. Panarin ought to send him a fruit basket. And he fell over on the Jacob Trouba goal. Trotz probably wanted to keep Thomas Greiss fresh for tomorrow night, but that one left him no choice.
- Get well soon, Casey Cizikas. This team, as currently constructed, won’t go anywhere without you. Matt Martin getting ejected early on probably didn’t help.
- Speaking of “as currently constructed” and “going anywhere:” I don’t know, I mean, how do you folks feel about this team’s chances this season if the roster remains the same?
The Islanders will sleep in their own beds tonight and host the Red Wings tomorrow night at the Coliseum. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. I’d like to say that should be an easy win, and in reality, that should be two points in the bank, even on the second half of a back-to-back. But the way this team plays against bad teams? (shrugs)