It was a tough loss for the Islanders to take. They held a 1-0 lead over the Rangers with just over 5:00 left in the third period and goalie Evgeni Nabokov was on top of his game. But then it all fell apart quickly. The Rangers tied it on a deflection by Rick Nash with 5:23 left in regulation and won the game in overtime on a power play goal by Marian Gaborik. The Isles came away with one point but the loss was a bitter pill to swallow.
“I don’t think it was our play that decided that game,” John Tavares said. “Nabby played great. It was a tough one to tie it but we got into overtime and it was an unfortunate break. We’re angry now but we’ve got a couple of big games this weekend and we have to be ready.”
The anger was over a penalty called on Michael Grabner 21 seconds into overtime that gave the Rangers their second power play of the game and led to the winning goal by Gaborik just 21 seconds later. It was the second time in four games the Islanders did not receive a single power play in the entire game.
“We didn’t have a power play tonight,” remarked Isles Coach Jack Capuano. “I feel bad for our guys because they worked hard and they deserved at least one or two power plays.”
“It’s frustrating but we move on,” added forward Matt Martin. “We had a playoff-style hockey game. For most of the game, the refs put the whistle away and let us play but they got a call there late and Gaborik made a pretty nice shot. They were physical, we were physical. We played a pretty good hockey game. If we keep playing like that, we’ll win a lot.”
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on a goal by Grabner set up by a pretty backhand pass by Colin McDonald. Andrew MacDonald earned the secondary assist on the goal which was Grabner’s 10th of the year. He now has goals in three straight games.
After that, it was a goaltender battle. Nabokov played a great game, stopping the first 31 shots he faced and making 35 saves in the game. Henrik Lundqvist countered with 28 saves to earn the win for the Rangers.
The overriding emotion in the home locker room was frustration. “It was a good hockey game,” Capuano added. “I thought both goalies were good. There were chances both ways. Moulson had a breakaway, Matt Martin had a breakaway. If we pump one of those in and its 2-0 and its a different game right there. We played better, we played hard. Our guys battled.”
The Islanders return to action Saturday afternoon when they host the Washington Capitals. Islanders tickets for this and other games are available.
The Islanders were without Lubomir Visnovsky again. He sat out for personal reasons. The Rangers played without Brad Richards and Marc Staal.
Defenseman Roman Hamrlik made his Rangers debut and played 15:48 tonight. Hamrlik wore number 40. He was credited with one shot on goal.
Matt Martin and Colin McDonald led all players on the ice with six hits each.
These two teams will meet a final time this season on April 13 at the Nassau Coliseum.