The New York Islanders continue to search for answers. Tuesday night at the Nassau Coliseum, the Rangers and Islanders played an exciting and hard fought game. Brad Richards scored with 4:55 left in regulation time to break a 2-2 tie and lead the Rangers to a 4-2 win. It was the seventh straight win for the Rangers while the Isles are now 1-7-3 in their last 11 games.
“It’s tough. We paid the price this game,” Isles Coach Jack Capuano said. “Tonight I thought we played one of our better games of the year but obviously we came up short…We did have a lot of guys who played extremely hard.”
The Isles got off to a slow start as the Rangers clearly had more jump in the first period, outshooting the Isles 14-5. The Rangers broke on top 14:43 into the game when Sean Avery gathered in his own rebound and beat Isles starter Evgeni Nabokov from the left circle. Frans Nielsen got the Isles even with 2:54 left in the first period on a shot from the right circle that Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist got a glove on but could not hold. Despite being badly outplayed in the first 20 minutes, the Isles went into the dressing room even at 1-1.
After a sluggish first period, the Islanders found their rhythm and played a much stronger game. The Isles outshot the Rangers 16-8 in the middle period but the Rangers Steve Eminger scored the only goal. Ryan Callahan made the play possible by winning a battle for the puck in the corner from Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic and sending a pinpoint cross ice pass to Eminger.
Late in the second period, the Isles penalty kill was tested when Milan Jurcina and Marty Reasoner were both sent to the penalty box for minors just 29 seconds apart. The Isles managed to kill a 1:31 5-0n-3 power play for the Rangers and keep themselves in the game.
The Islanders struggling power play finally clicked nearly seven minutes into the third period to tie the game 2-2. John Tavares feathered a pass to Matt Moulson just outside the crease and Moulson deflected the puck home.
“It was a great pass by Johnny, but that’s a simple play, just throwing it near the net and getting there,” Moulson said.
Both teams had good scoring chances in the third period. The game winning goal was a tough one for the Isles to swallow. Josh Bailey tried to clear the puck out of his own zone but it was intercepted by Brandon Dubinsky who set up Richards for a hard shot from the right circle that beat Nabokov to give the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish. Callahan added an empty net goal with just one second left to give the Rangers their final tally of the night.
Many of the Islanders players expressed their frustration after losing to their biggest rivals. “We’re angry,” Moulson added. “Guys want to win. We should be a winning team in this league. We have to find ways to get it done and we have to figure it out as a group.”
“We’re just trying to get better, we’re just trying to find a way to win,” Tavares explained. “We don’t accept losing, we don’t like it, we don’t enjoy it. It’s not easy all the time and we don’t enjoy this feeling. We’ve got a team with the right tools, the right approach and the right work ethic, it’s just putting it all together.”
Goal scoring remains an issue for the Islanders. They are averaging just over two goals a game which ranks them 29th in the league. The defense corps has scored only two goals all year, one by Mark Streit and one by Andrew MacDonald. Both came on the power play. Meanwhile, several key forwards have yet to score this year including Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau, Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo.
“We’re not a team that scores a lot of goals right now,” Capuano admitted. “We have find secondary scoring in order to be successful. I think our defensive play has been pretty good up until this point with the exception of the Boston game so we just have to find a way to score some goals…We’re just not getting the results that we want. There’s a lot of adversity in life and you’ve got to keep battling. We were a desperate hockey team and I thought we were dangerous tonight. We came out and got off to a little bit of a slow start but I like the way we competed for the second half of the first, the second and third.”
The Islanders return to action Thursday night when they host the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers are off until Saturday when they travel to Montreal.
Kyle Okposo was a healthy scratch for the Islanders. Nino Niederreiter saw his first action of the season with the Isles after completing a conditioning stint with Bridgeport. Niederreiter was credited with one shot on goal and four hits in 11:17 of action. Mark Eaton and Rick DiPietro were also scratched for the Islanders.
Sean Avery and Mike Mottau tried to fight late in the first period but were assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties before they could throw punches. They went at it early in the second period when they both left the penalty box.
The game was a sellout and fans of both teams were vocal throughout the contest.