The New York Islanders scored three goals in the third period to defeat the New York Rangers 3-1 at the Barclays Center Thursday night. Brock Nelson, Nick Leddy and Kyle Okposo scored for the Islanders while Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves to earn the win. Marc Staal scored the only goal for the Rangers.
“I thought it was a gut check for our team,” Isles head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “I thought we played extremely hard against a good team. Our defense at times made a couple of mistakes, but overall, with [Travis] Hamonic and [Johnny] Boychuk being out, [the team] picked up the slack…Fortunately our penalty kill was good tonight. Our goaltender stood tall and the power-play goal was a big goal for us.”
The two rivals played a physical, hard-fought game. The Rangers came out quickly and outplayed the Islanders for the first 12 minutes of the game. Halak was equal to the challenge and kept the game scoreless. At one point, the Rangers were outshooting the home team 12-6 but the Islanders recovered and the rest of the period was played at a more even tempo. By the end of the first 20 minutes, the shots on goal were 14-10 and both Halak and Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist were able to stop some quality chances.
The Rangers broke on top late in the second period on a goal by Marc Staal that was part of a mini-3-on-2 rush. Chris Kreider was in front of the net and may have partially screened Halak on the play. The goal came with 36 seconds left in the period and the Islanders trailed 1-0 after 40 minutes. The Rangers went into the locker room with the momentum and were 15-0-0 so far this season when leading after two periods.
Brock Nelson tied the game at 1-1 just 1:53 into the final stanza. “It was just a broken play in the offensive zone,” Nelson said. “I was able to find it by the hash and I had enough time to shoot it. It went in the short side.”
The Islanders took the lead for good just 2:24 later on a power play goal by Nick Leddy. John Tavares showed great patience with the puck, holding it behind the play until Leddy could skate into position just in front of the crease and deflect the puck behind Henrik Lundqvist.
The Islanders played their best hockey late in the game, limiting the Rangers to just one shot on goal in the final nine minutes and preventing the Blueshirts from getting into prime scoring areas.
“We kept the puck moving and made good first passes and got the puck out of the zone,” Leddy explained. “The wingers did a great job of chipping pucks out when we needed it and obviously Jaro [Halak] was big for us throughout the game.”
Kyle Okposo put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal in the closing seconds to make the final score 3-1.
The win was very satisfying for the Islanders, particularly when they beat their division rivals. “I felt great tonight. Obviously every time we play these guys it’s special,” Halak said. “The fans get into it right away, even in warm ups. It gets you going right away. It’s a big two points for us. We just need to keep climbing the ladder in the standings.”
The win left the Islanders alone in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 53 points, two more than the Rangers.
The Islanders conclude their three-game home stand Sunday when they host the Vancouver Canucks at 4 pm ET.
Rookie defenseman Adam Pelech picked up his first NHL point when he assisted on Nelson’s goal early in the third period.
Official attendance was 15,795. That is the fourth sellout of the year for the Islanders and that includes both meetings with the Rangers.
Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and Pelech were all a plus-two on the night.
Jaro Halak is now 8-0-0 against Henrik Lundqvist in his career. Five of those wins came with the Islanders.