It was all about defense last night at the Nassau Coliseum when the cross-town rivals faced off for the first time this season. The Islanders, who have gotten off to a surprisingly good start (now 3-1) defeated the Rangers 2-1 to send them off to a disappointing 1-2 beginning.
All three goals were scored by defensemen and both Rick DiPietro (36 saves) and Henrik Lundqvist (28 saves) did everything they could to help their respective squads. While the game was certainly entertaining, as all Rangers-Islanders contests are, it did not have the level of intensity expected, considering their storied history. Of course, there were the requisite post-stoppage scrums and nonsensical yapping, but there wasn’t the fierceness and desperation fans are used to seeing when these two compete.
Marc-Andre Bergeron opened the scoring when he beat Lundqvist with a fine shot with just four seconds remaining in the first frame. With both teams skating three-on-three, Mike Sillinger won a face-off to the right of Lundqvist and the puck came to Bergeron, who surprised everybody with the tally.
The late goal figured to give the home team the momentum, but it was the Rangers who struck back early in the second. Fedor Tyutin fired a perfect shot (off a nice feed from Martin Straka) high into the upper right corner to beat DiPietro at 2:07 to even the score. But the Rangers couldn’t sustain anything further. While they managed many good scoring opportunities, they couldn’t finish off their plays.
At 13:56 of the middle stanza, Bryan Berard put the Isles up for good with a power-play goal (a five-on-three advantage). Both Marek Malik and Blair Betts incurred hooking penalties 18 seconds apart to put the Rangers in a hole. To make matters worse, Lundqvist was cited for playing the puck outside the trapezoid behind the net and given a delay of game penalty.
There were no furthers tallies on the night; first star of the game DiPietro stood tall when called on, especially in the third when the Rangers dominated play for minutes at a time.
The Rangers were a woeful 0-6 on the power-play and have yet to convert with the man advantage in three games thus far. That speaks volumes for why they have gotten off to a slow start. Their big guns have yet to get started. Jaromir Jagr doesn’t look comfortable and Scott Gomez appears nervous. He had several great chances last night and didn’t play even close to his potential. Although Chris Drury had a nice first game, the last two haven’t met expectations either.
The Rangers try to get back to the .500 level on Friday night when the Washington Capitals come to MSG.