NEW YORK – All good things must, eventually, come to an end. For the Rangers, that good thing was a record-long streak of success, the likes of which they hadn’t seen in over 40 years.
They had their run of 13 wins in 14 games snapped by the division-leading Islanders (29-13-1) on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, getting blanked by their cross-town rivals 3-0 at Madison Square Garden.
It’s just the second time in franchise history the Isles shut the Rangers out at MSG, the first since December 17, 1975.
“They were the better team tonight,” said defenseman Dan Boyle. “We’ll all admit that. We move on.”
It was a virtuoso performance by the Isles, who’ve won all their regular-season games at MSG in a season for the first time since 2001-02. They also clubbed the Rangers 6-3 on October 14 in their only other matchup at the Garden.
The Rangers (24-12-4), had their five-game winning streak halted, including three straight road wins over the Ducks, Kings and Sharks. They had plenty of gas at the outset, outplaying the Isles through 20 minutes. But the second period was a different story.
“They started doing all the stuff they didn’t do in the first period,” said Derick Brassard of what changed in the second, when the Isles got all their scoring. “They started skating, they were moving the puck pretty fast. We had our chances in the first, we couldn’t capitalize on anything, and after that it’s pretty hard to come back from a 3-0 [deficit].”
It didn’t start out badly for the Rangers, who played their only home game during a 16-day, seven-game span. They had the run of play in the first period, with three shots ringing off the post – including Rick Nash’s try late in the period, and Brassard – with a gaping net – on the rebound moments later. Brassard’s shot actually hit both posts before somehow staying out.
“It’s kind of discouraging when you hit three posts in two seconds, especially in a game like this,” Nash said. “Those are the ones you need to go in.”
“That was the game,” Brassard said. “The first period, we had our chances. We were in their end pretty much the entire first period. After that, they took over.
They certainly did. The Isles came out in the second and completely changed the game, outskating a Rangers team that, just three nights ago, was nearly 3,000 miles away. Anders Lee opened the scoring at 8:49, depositing a rebound past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (29 saves).
Nikolay Kulemin added another at 16:31, with Frans Nielsen slipping one past Lundqvist while shorthanded in the period’s final minute. The Rangers allowed a season-high 44 shots, their most since October, 2013.
“We got outskated, out battled in our own zone for sure,” said captain Ryan McDonagh. “We haven’t given up that many shots in a long time, since I can remember. We didn’t have the puck a lot because we were the slower team tonight, which we haven’t been in this last stretch. We know what makes us successful, and we just weren’t doing it tonight. They were definitely making us look pretty slow out there.”
“In the second period, there’s no doubt we were a step behind,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “Our execution was a step behind, our decision-making [was a step behind]. They took over.”
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