NEW YORK – The way the Rangers started their rivalry game with the Islanders Thursday night at MSG, it looked like the Blueshirts were going to skate the Islanders all the way back to Uniondale.
But, the second period was a different story, as the Islanders scored three unanswered goals within the first 7:25 of the second en route to a 4-3 win in the shootout over the Rangers (7-5-1).
The Islanders (5-7-1) snapped a five-game losing streak with the win, while the Rangers had their three-game winning streak halted.
The game started well for the Rangers, who tallied just 3:36 into the game when Carl Hagelin fed a cutting Dan Girardi. Just under eight minutes later, the Rangers had another, when Marian Gaborik stuffed home a loose puck in front after Brad Richards had two whacks at it with the Islanders defense nowhere to be found.
But, the game soon turned, leaving the Rangers seemingly off-guard. The Rangers had the first ten shots of the game before the Islanders responded with six of the final seven shots of the period, spanning the final six minutes of the first.
In the second, the Islanders came out a whole different team – forechecking, pressuring the puck, and making things difficult for the Rangers. Just 29 seconds into the second, Colin McDonald stuffed in a centering feed from Casey Cizikas. Six minutes later – and 12 seconds after the Rangers couldn’t capitalize on a two-man advantage, John Tavares and Brad Boyes scored within 40 seconds to send the Islanders ahead, 3-2.
“I thought we played a really good first period. Last quarter of the first period, I thought we lost our pace a little bit,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “I think you settle in, you think it’s going to be an easy one. Because we were playing really well. They score one, it gives them some life, they weren’t defending worth a s— early on, and then they start defending when they scored that goal.”
It was the second straight game the Rangers blew a multi-goal lead.
“I don’t know if we got a bit too lazy and a bit too comfortable, maybe,” said Hagelin. “We gave them three quick ones. Those 12 minutes, we didn’t play the way we wanted.”
“I feel like we have the guys in here that know how to make the plays, and the situational plays,” said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. “For whatever reason, we give up two leads, and we can’t have it.”
Carl Hagelin brought the Rangers back even with a stuff-in power-play goal at 11:14 of the second, a tally that needed to be reviewed to make sure it crossed the goal line. It was only the Rangers fifth power-play tally of the season, in 48 attempts.
“The last five minutes of the first period were a tough five minutes for us,” said Hagelin. “We were in here, and we wanted to make sure we came out flying in the second. We obviously didn’t. They got a goal right away. We didn’t play the way we wanted to, that’s for sure.”
“I’m going to try to look at it another way, too,” said Tortorella. “We end up with three out of four points [in the last two games]. Listen, tonight we had a number of guys struggle, on our back-end, too. We got a point. We don’t leave here naked. That’s the way we have to look at it sometimes.”
Brad Richards was effectively benched in the third period, getting only one shift. He took the opening faceoff of overtime, but skated a season-low 14:50.
It’s on me. There’s not really much else to divulge about it,” said Richards. “I was just trying too hard. Instead of moving the puck, I was trying too hard, and that’s why I was getting myself in jams. Need to be smarter than that.”
“He struggled,” said Tortorella, who answered multiple questions about his top pivot succinctly. “It’s a pretty big hole. But, I felt I had to. It’s just a struggle. He’s struggling.”
The Rangers penalty kill has been perfect over their last four games, going 12-for-12 over the span. For the season, they’re at an 83.0% conversion rate.
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