Last night at the Garden, Wade Dubielewicz and the New York Islanders continued their recent success over the Rangers with a 4-3 shootout victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. The loss ended the Rangers winning streak, but with the point earned, they have now gone ten straight games collecting points, their best such streak in almost 13 years.
Jeff Tambellini won the shootout when he beat Henrik Lundqvist in the sixth round. The only other goals scored in the exciting last chapter were by Nigel Dawes and Bill Guerin.
With the victory, the Isles have won four of the five matches against the Blueshirts this season. For whatever reason, “Dubie” and crew have had their way with the Rangers this season. But last night, the Isles definitely didn’t bring their “A” game. In fact, they managed just 18 shots on goal (one game after amassing a record 53); fortunately for them, two of those shots found the back of the net due to some good bounces.
In the opening period, the Blueshirts came out with great energy and took the play right to the Isles, who had little response to their attack. The first half of the frame was played largely in the Isles end, but the Rangers couldn’t score. Their best chance was Brandon Dubinsky’s shot that clanked off the crossbar. When a team dominates play and can’t take advantage, they frequently find trouble later on, and that’s exactly what happened. Shots favored the Rangers 12-6.
The Islanders got the only tally of the period on an unassisted goal by Blake Comeau at 18:43 that was the result of a giveaway by Marek Malik. From behind the goal line, Malik turned the puck over and Comeau just shot it on net. The puck caromed off Michal Rozsival’s skate and then off Lundqvist before going in the net.
The Rangers took just two and a half minutes to get the equalizer in the second on a power-play goal by Dawes, however. But 41 seconds later, the Isles regained the lead when Sean Bergenheim fired a shot from the high slot that beat Lundqvist. Trent Hunter then widened the Islanders advantage to 3-1 two minutes later when he deflected Ruslan Fedotenko’s shot to put the capacity crowd on edge, but Chris Drury answered back two minutes after that with a blast from long range that Dubielewicz was screened on. A little over seven minutes had elapsed in the second, and four goals were on the board. Both teams settled down and the period ended with the Isles holding onto the same slim one goal lead. Shots again favored the home team 11-7.
That margin was erased early in the final frame by a shorthanded tally from Ryan Callahan, who knocked in the rebound of a Scott Gomez effort at 5:47. It was the 14th time (worst in the league) the Isles had surrendered a shorthanded goal. With the game knotted, the Rangers were in good shape considering the Isles were playing their third game in four nights. But it was the visiting team who stepped up and carried the play. The Rangers seemed content to come away all even after regulation and earn a point. There were only nine shots on goal total (5-4 for the Blueshirts).
The overtime was tense but neither team got the game-winner. In the shootout, coach Renney’s strategy to shoot last backfired as each time his Rangers missed on their turn, the pressure on Lundqvist to stop the Islanders’ shooters mounted. Furthermore, Jaromir Jagr, who played very well despite having nothing to show for it on the score board was noticeably absent from the ending theatrics. While he has not proven himself this year in the shootout, he skated with great confidence last night and had multiple scoring opportunities. He might have been a better alternative than Rozsival and Brandon Dubinsky (who had no shootout experience). Protecting Jagr’s delicate psyche was not the right move.
Dubielewicz made 27 saves in a spectacular winning performance while Lundqvist stopped just 15 shots in reasonable effort. The finale of the home-and-home is Thursday night on Long Island.