The New York Islanders played their second poor game in a row, though tonight’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers was disappointing in completely different ways than the previous night’s shootout win over the Flyers.
Overall, the Isles were disconnected on their rushes, a little too pedestrian in their defensive coverage and effort, and without any of the puck luck — at least three posts/crossbars hit — that might have covered up the warts of their performance.
The game was fairly even in the first, still salvageable in the second and early third, but the Islanders seemed to trend worse as the game wore on, and the Rangers never let up.
The first of five matches over the next 23 days went to the visitors, who deserved both points. The Isles fall to 4-1 on this six-game homestand, and the loss means they again share first place with the Capitals, who won in Buffalo tonight.
First Period: Track meet
The first period lacked goals but did not lack action. It was looser than either coach would prefer, with both goalies called to stop point-blank chances and face odd-man rushes.
Alexandar Georgiev stopped Brock Nelson with a headfirst lunge at close range, Semyon Varlamov positioned well for a few cross-slot chances and odd-man rushes. The scariest moment for the Isles was a clear-cut Mika Zibanejad breakaway after an expired power play, where the puck bobbled on the Swede. He recovered not to get a shot off but to pass for a dangerous chance that Varlamov denied.
Zibanejad was coming out of the box after boarding call that was the only penalty of the game. Anthony Beauvillier could’ve easily been called for hooking early in the game, but the officials appeared not to want to call things that didn’t directly affect the flow of play. There were plenty of finished checks, but Zibanejad’s was the only one deemed to cross the line. All other infractions for the rest of the game were ignored, save for faceoff violations and icings that were curiously judged.
That lone power play registered no official shots and the Isles generally didn’t threaten much, but one Brock Nelson deflection on a shot from the point rang the bar.
Second Period: Slowing down
The eventful, high-shot play continued into the middle period, with the Rangers taking advantage of some uncharacteristic chaotic defense.
Alexis Lafreniere got what will be one of the easier goals of his career when he converted a loose puck at the backdoor 6:05 into the period. The sequence started when Semyon Varlamov didn’t get as much as he wanted on a puck he played from behind the net. The Rangers intercepted along the boards and got a series of shots off. Varlamov stopped the first two but the rebounds drew him further and further out of the crease. Lafreniere found the puck in Noah Dobson’s skates and had little left to do to score his seventh.
Four minutes later, more Rangers pressure resulted in a 2-0 lead. An Artemi Panarin pass bounced off the inside of Ryan Pulock’s leg right in front of the net, Colin Blackwell pounced on the loose puck and put it upstairs.
Even down 2-0, the Isles didn’t wake up right away and the Rangers were a shade away from making it 3-0. But finally the Isles started to pick up a bit and it paid off with two goals, one that didn’t count and one that did.
Adam Pelech’s drive from the point went in thanks to a deflection by Brock Nelson. Alas, the Rangers cried high stick, others on the ice suspected high stick, and the refs came around to an on-ice declaration of no goal. Video review confirmed Nelson’s stick was several inches too high.
But the Islanders used the same recipe to get on the board for real just a few minutes later.
Good forecheck by Jordan Eberle, followed by a retrieval by Mathew Barzal that he sent to the point.
Andy from the blue line! pic.twitter.com/2eB6jI9WW7— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 10, 2021
Third Period: No comeback here
The Rangers did a good job of keeping the pressure on while continuing to clog the neutral zone and blueline for the Islanders’ rushes.
An extended shift of pressure against the fourth line finally resulted in an insurance goal for the Rangers midway through the period. K’Andre Miller’s one-timer from the point found its way through Varlamov to make it 3-1.
Barry Trotz rotated some new options on the Barzal-Eberle line, giving Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac each a look on the wing where Leo Komarov has recently resided.
“As we get to Monday and after the [deadline] ... I have an idea of where we want to go [in terms of lines],” Trotz said afterward. “It takes some time to adjust. The Jersey guys are coming in, an adjustment period for them. Positionally they’re learning our stuff. And we need our special teams intact. But we’re just off right now, that’s part of a long season where you won’t be at your best every night.”
Still generating very little, the Islanders pulled Varlamov for a sixth attacker with a few minutes left and finally had some sustained possession and a few more chances. It all came to a merciful end when Zibanajed lobbed a puck after a scramble at the Rangers blueline, and the puck took a determined turn to the empty net to finish the game.
These teams are back at it on Sunday, also at the Coliseum.