236 times during regular season, countless other post season games, spanning 40 years, eight Presidents have served since the first Islander-Ranger game, yet somehow it never gets old for both fans and players. Tonight was no exception.
In the long history of “The Rivalry” many of the regular season games seemed to be played in the Bizarro World (also known as Htrae, earth spelled backwards) the fictional planet in the DC comics universe. The standings never seemed to matter if the Rangers where at the bottom of the standings, they would come up big against the always at the top of the pack Islanders. If the Rangers where on a hot streak, it would be the Islanders who would put an abrupt end to it. So were the planets aligned tonight ( as much as a cube-shaped planet in the Bizarro world can be aligned) for a repeat ?
The Rangers came into Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum looking to extend their winning streak to seven games to equal the longest for the Rangers since they won seven straight during the 2009-10 season (Oct. 3 –Oct. 17). The Islanders on the other hand enter the contest having lost nine of their last 10 games (1-6-3).
Rangers during the Rangers six game win streak they have lead 222:19, been tied 141:59, have trailed for only 42 seconds. That has this team playing at a high level of confidence, which showed early on. The Rangers were beating the Islanders to every loose puck, They were looking to break out on each shift, the Rangers held the early shot advantage. Each line moved the puck quickly and efficiently around the ice, The Richards-Avery-Fedentko line seemed to have tremendous jump, then for some reason Coach Tortorella moved Richards between Dubinsky and Callahan and switched Boyle into Richards’ center slot. The move paid instant dividends as Avery collected his second goal in as many games, beating Evgeni Nabokov at 14:43 of the first to once again to allow the Rangers to play with the lead.
When asked after the game why he made the switch the coach stated “ I was going bounce those two centers back and forth in those two lines but we shift them and I liked the way the Boyle line played. They scored the goal right away, and I thought Richie, Cally and Dubi together had one of their better games, but my gut I wanted to change that, and I thought I might go back to them but I didn’t “
That lead was short lived as the Islanders tied the score on a Frans Nielsens fourth goal of the season on a wrist shot that went off Henrik Lundqvist’s glove.
As the period wound down the bad blood begin to boil as Sean Avery and Mike Mottau mixed it up a bit to allow the teams to finish the period 4-on-4 as both were sent to the locker room for unsportsmanlike conduct with 56 seconds left in the period.
The second period would start much like 18 of the past periods, with the Rangers either tied or leading. The bad blood continued and Sean Avery and Mike Mottau would reunite and actually drop the gloves which set the tone. One of the main reasons for the Rangers success over the six game streak was the disciplined play and staying out of the box. The steady parade of men to the penalty box that plagued the Rangers early season games returned with a vengeance early on in the second period as Steve Eminger, Erik Christensen and Ryan Callahan got called for minor penalties within an eight minute span. It would even out late as both teams ended up with five penalties in the middle frame. The best penalty killers for both teams were the goalies, Nabokov flashing the leather, Lundqvist flashing the pads left and right.
When asked about the rash of penalties the team took in the game Captain Ryan Callahan said “It’s always tough when there are a lot of power plays both ways,a lot of momentum swings, it’s hard to get a regular shift, your penalty killers get worn down a bit,but that’s how games go sometimes. We found a way.”
The lone goal of the period came on a stereotypical harding working shift by the Rangers captain. Callahan cycled and shielded the puck against an Islander defense that looked about as engaged as the Flyers offense against a Lightning 1-3-1 trap. Callahan found defenseman Steve Eminger with a perfect pass that he quickly deposited to the back of the net for his first goal of the season at 6:07 of the second. The goal put the Rangers in the familiar position of playing with the lead. How much of a factor would all the special teams play be in third?
The undisciplined play continued as Artem Anisimov took a high sticking penalty at 6:18 of the third which the Islanders cashed 40 seconds later on a power play tip in goal by Matt Moulson in to tie the game at 2.
Would the Rangers experience over the past six games allow them to come out of the tight contest with the win or would the team that has been losing all the close ones lately finally come through in this bizzaro world ? The Rangers got the goal they needed as Brad Richards scored with just under five minutes to play in regulation.
Henrik Lundqvist would make that goal stand up as he made several key saves in the waning seconds of the game.
When asked about the current seven-game streak and having only trailed for 42 seconds in that span Lundqvist said “Obviously when you look at the record and score first you get the lead it’s a lot easier then having to chase all the time. Sometimes you feel you have to do more when you’re behind. We are making real good decisions out there I think thats the key for us in tight games were not trying to much.”
Ryan Callahan would ice it with an empty netter with one second left in the game to give the Rangers their seventh win in a row.
Coach Tortorella summed it up best. “ Whenever you play in this damn building it’s up and down over and about you just never know what’s going to happen.”
At least for tonight the Ranger-Islander Rivalry stayed out of the Bizzaro World. The streaking Rangers got the win, the struggling Islanders got the loss. For know all is right in the Rangers Universe but all that can change the next time there two teams meet at Madison Square Garden on December 22nd.