Dan Carcillo scored the game-winner early in the second period to lead the Rangers to a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night.
It was a tough game for the Isles to lose while 50,027 enthused fans of both clubs encouraged their favorite team on during a cold night in the Bronx. The temperature was in the teens for most of the night with a wind chill in the single digits.
The atmosphere was charged from the beginning. In addition to the unique outdoor setting and the rivalry between these two teams, the fans were treated to a live performance by singer Cee Lo Green before the game and at the first intermission. Fireworks were set off as both teams entered the field through the baseball dugouts and started to towards the specially constructed temporary rink that covered most of the infield.
“It was pretty cool,” Isles defenseman Andrew MacDonald admitted. “It’s not often that you see a hockey rink in the middle of a stadium like that. It was a nice long walk and it kind of gave you a chance to look around a little bit and take it all in.”
While there were fireworks before the opening faceoff, the first period was played at a crawl with both teams trying to adjust to the outdoor atmosphere and the bouncing puck. Neither club had many scoring chances in the first 20 minutes with the Islanders outshooting the Rangers 10-6.
Both teams picked up the pace in the second period and the game had more flow. Rookie Brock Nelson finally broke the scoreless tie when he took a pass from Matt Donovan and beat Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist to the short side on a shot from the right circle. The play was set up by Cal Clutterbuck who made a good pass as he was falling to the ice to help keep the play alive.
The Islanders led for only 40 seconds, however as Benoit Pouliot tied the game with 46.3 seconds left in the second period when he put home the rebound of a Derick Brassard shot to tie the game at 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Because the puck was bouncing, neither team was able to make pretty passes or skate much with the puck on offense.
“You can’t overhandle the puck, Nelson explained after the game. “The puck was bouncing a couple of times on the defensemen and in front of the net.”
Goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who made his first start since January 6, also said the outdoor environment caused him to make some adjustments.
“I think I had to focus a little bit more, especially when the puck was around the red line,” Nabokov said. “You kind of don’t see it as clear as you want to. I tried to come out a little bit more to see it.”
The Rangers went ahead for good on Carcillo’s goal at 4:36 of the final period when he beat Evgeni Nabokov with a wrist shot after the bouncing puck found him in the slot.
The Islanders were limited to six shots on goal in the third period which saw the Rangers play more aggressively and take control of the tempo. The best Isles’ scoring chance came in the closing seconds when Kyle Okposo had the puck in the slot but his shot went wide of the Rangers’ goal.
Overall, despite the loss, the Isles were pleased to be part of this memorable experience.
“It was everything I thought it would be and more,” forward Matt Martin said. “The atmosphere was great. The fans were loud. The best place you could possibly play a hockey game is Yankee Stadium so it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Still, the Islanders could have badly used the two points in the standings. Coach Jack Capuano felt that his team played well, but knows they need to do a little more if they hope to make a playoff run this season.
“We’re playing well enough to win but we’ve got to find a way to win,” Capuano said after the game.
The Islanders return to action Friday night when they again face the Rangers, this time in the more traditional setting of Madison Square Garden.
The crowd was the largest ever to watch an Islanders home game.
The Isles scratched Radek Martinek, Matt Carkner and Eric Boulton. The Rangers scratched Justin Falk.
Okposo’s six-game point scoring streak was snapped.