The New York Islanders battled the visiting New York Rangers tooth and nail in an exciting, back and forth game at the Nassau Coliseum Thursday night, only to fall short, 6-5.
In the end, there were too many mistakes by the Islanders and too much Marian Gaborik. The Rangers sniper had a hat trick and an assist to lead the Rangers attack.
“To me it was the giveaways,” Isles Coach Jack Capuano admitted. “Four of their goals were the result of us turning the puck over.”
Both teams played sloppy hockey at times, but like most games in this rivalry, the play was high in intensity and full of good checks and some very exciting play.
The Rangers were only too happy to leave the Nassau Coliseum with two points, especially after losing 6-4 to the Islanders in their first meeting here in October.
“Earlier this year, we were on the losing end, so trying to take a positive out of it, we won a game,” Rangers Coach John Tortorella said.
The Rangers newly created line of Erik Christensen, Sean Avery and Gaborik was the difference maker. Avery finished the game with three assists while Christensen had a goal and an assist to go with Gaborik’s four point night.
“Big players need to come up big at big times, and I thought Gaby did that,” said Rangers forward Ryan Callahan. “We needed some key goals and he was there to put them in. That’s one of the things we need to be successful, for Gaby to be firing on all cylinders like that.”
The Rangers controlled the tempo of the game in the first period and led 2-0 on goals by Christensen and Callahan. But Zenon Konopka scored his first goal of the season in the final minute of the period to pull the Islanders to within one goal and give them some badly needed momentum heading into the second period.
The first half of the period was all Isles and Matt Moulson and Rob Schremp scored to give the Isles a 3-2 lead with 7:30 left in the second stanza.
After the third Islanders goal, Tortorella lifted starting goalie Martin Biron and replaced him with Henrik Lundqvist.
“I thought Marty didn’t look dead-on even on a couple saves he made,” said Tortorella. “Our team looked lethargic, and I just wanted to switch. So it’s not all on Marty. It was more just trying to change momentum.”
The goalie change had the desired effect as the Rangers composed themselves and regained control of the momentum. Brandon Prust scored just 51 seconds after Schremp. DiPietro made the initial save but the puck deflected in off the arm of Isles defenseman Andrew MacDonald and into the net. Gaborik’s first tally three minutes later gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead after two periods.
The game looked out of reach when Gaborik scored again early in the third period but the Islanders refused to quit and tied the game 5-5 on goals by Michael Grabner and Blake Comeau.
Just as fans were reacting to Comeau’s game-tying goal, Gaborik put home the game winner only 25 seconds later on a rebound.
This time, the Rangers would not relinquish the lead.
“It’s great to see the resiliency but there were areas of the game we were really sloppy,” admitted Isles forward John Tavares. “There are no excuses. We’ve got to figure that part out. There are too many lapses right now and it’s costing us.”
“It’s brutal,” Isles goalie Rick DiPietro said. “It’s always tough, especially losing to these guys. It seemed every time we seized the momentum, there was a breakdown and they capitalized on it.”
The same two teams are back in action Friday night at Madison Square Garden at 7 PM to complete the home-and-home series.
Bruno Gervais, Jack Hillen and Doug Weight were scratched for the Islanders while the Rangers sat out Matt Gilroy and Todd White.
Defenseman Travis Hamonic picked up his first NHL point when he assisted on Comeau’s third period goal.
The hat trick was Gaborik’s second of the season and the 12th of his NHL career.
The Islanders went 0-for-1 on the power play and have not scored in their last 30 chances with the man advantage, stretching over nine games.