It was the same old story for the New York Islanders. They held a lead after 40 minutes but watched it slip away. Ryan McDonagh and Benoit Pouliot scored third period goals as the Rangers edged the Islanders 3-2 at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night.
Isles’ coach Jack Capuano was visibly frustrated at a brief, post-game press conference. “It’s the same mistakes again. I thought we turned it over too many times.”
The frustration clearly has to do with the way the Islanders are playing in their own zone. With Both Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait out of the lineup, the Isles are very thin on defense and the remaining blueliners have to play more minutes each game than they usually would. It seems to be catching up to them.
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald explained what the Rangers did well, especially in the third period. “They cycled us pretty hard from one side of the ice to another a few times,” MacDonald explained. “I don’t know if it wore us down a little bit. We were just a little sluggish getting to the guy. They worked us down low pretty good. For the most part, we didn’t give up too much, we kept them to the outside but at the same time you can’t go the other way and create offense if you’re playing in your own zone for an extended period of time.”
The game was tight and highly competitive throughout. Two of the Rangers goals came on the power play including the first of the game, scored by Chris Kreider. Brad Richards took a shot from the point and Kreider found the rebound a few feet from the net and was able to put it past Evgeni Nabokov to make it 1-0 Rangers.
The Islanders out shot the Rangers 9-4 in the first period, although the scoring chances were not nearly as one-sided. Nabokov played well in the first two periods and was able to limit the damage.
Big Cal Clutterbuck evened the score 3:40 into the second period on his first goal as an Islander. Richards tried to keep the puck in the Islanders zone but missed and Clutterbuck was able to break free down the wing. He beat Rangers’ goalie Cam Talbot high and to the short side with a wrist shot and the score was 1-1.
The Islanders took a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the second period. A loose puck off a rebound bounced past Talbot after going off defenseman Dan Girardi and into the net. Peter Regin was credited with the goal and the Islanders had their first lead of the game.
A too-many-men on the ice penalty against the Islanders gave the Rangers a chance to even the score early in the third period and the visitors cashed in. McDonagh took a hard shot from the left point that beat a screened Nabokov. Derek Stepan earned the primary assist, his second of the night.
The game-winner came with 6:14 left in regulation. Pouliot had an open shot between the circles after a nice feed by Carl Hagelin. The Islanders were unable to even the score and the Rangers held on for the 3-2 win.
This was the first game in an Islanders uniform for Thomas Vanek who was just traded to the Islanders in exchange for Matt Moulson and two draft picks. Vanek was on the ice for 19:49 and was credited with one shot on goal, two hits and a blocked shot. He played on the first line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo.
Vanek was impressed by the atmosphere of a Rangers-Islanders game, but he also admitted it will take time to develop chemistry with his new teammates. “Our line was OK. We had some good moments. We’re still trying to feel each other out. Johnny [Tavares] is so creative with the puck and I kind of need to watch some video and see his tendencies and get better.”
In the end, however, it was the same old story for the Islanders, a failure to hold a late lead. Similar finishes took place against Columbus, Nashville, Buffalo and Carolina.
MacDonald said the Isles had plenty to work on over the next few days. “Our puck management and our decision making, especially in the third period with a lead, its got to be really sharp and it’s frustrating to give up another one of these [games]. It’s time for us to really shut those games down.”
“You have to realize you have to do your job out there and work as a five-man unit,” MacDonald continued. “It’s not always easy. The other team is pressing but you have to make good puck decisions and make good reads and not be too fast. At the end of the day, you’ve got to keep the puck out of your net and we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Islanders return to action Friday night when they travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators.
John Tavares’ 10-game point scoring streak came to a close as he was kept off the score sheet for the first time since the season-opener. Frans Nielsen’s four-game goal scoring streak was also ended.
The game was a sellout with 16,170 fans cheering for both teams.
Matt Martin got the best of Derek Dorsett in a second period fight.
This will be the Rangers only trip to the Nassau Coliseum this season. The other Isles “home” game will be played outdoors at Yankee Stadium.