The 2015-16 New York Islanders accomplished something not even the great dynasty teams of the 1980s did on Thursday night: they swept a season series from the New York Rangers. Thomas Greiss made 36 saves while Shane Prince and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist to pace the Islanders attack.
The win moved the Isles past the Rangers into third place in the Metropolitan Division. Both teams have 99 points on the season but the Islanders have a game in hand as the season enters its final weekend.
“It was a good win,” head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “They made a real good push in the second and I thought our goalie really stood tall he made two or three tremendous saves to keep the score where it was. Our guys played hard and they competed hard.”
The Rangers outplayed the Islanders in a scoreless first period, holding the visitors without a shot on goal for more than 10:00 in the middle of the period. The Rangers outshot the Isles 12-7 but Greiss made several big stops to keep the Rangers from getting on the scoreboard.
Prince put the Islanders ahead 1-0 at the 13:28 mark of the second period when he deflected a shot by Marek Zidlicky from the point and beat Henrik Lundqvist.
Then, the Islanders struck for two quick goals 1:07 apart in the final 90 seconds of the period to take a quick 3-0 lead. First, Casey Cizikas scored his 8th goal of the season on a pinpoint pass from Prince at 18:38. Then, with Keith Yandle in the penalty box for tripping, Frans Nielsen potted his 20th goal of the season at 19:45 to extend the Isles lead to three.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it this year,” Nielsen joked after the game. “It was nice to get it. Every time you get a point in this league it’s something you’re proud of. It’s nothing I’ll think of right now but later on, for sure it’s something you’re proud of, getting 20 goals in this league.”
The Rangers pulled Lundqvist after 40 minutes, perhaps to give him some rest before the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Antti Raanta came in and played the third period for the Rangers.
The Rangers had a pair of power play chances in the third period but the Islanders highly-regarded penalty kill kept them off the board and held the Blueshirts to just nine shots on goal for the rest of the game.
Greiss lost the shutout with just 2:48 left when Kevin Klein tallied his ninth goal of the season to pull the Rangers to within 3-1, but Tavares responded with an empty-net goal in the final minute to clinch the win and the season sweep for the Islanders.
The win was the third straight for the Islanders who have now played well in all three games since their embarrassing 5-0 loss to Pittsburgh last Saturday. The wins all came against teams who will qualify for the playoffs.
“I think it means a lot,” Nielsen said. “It shows when we play the right way, we can beat some good teams and I like where we’re at right now. We’ve got some injuries but guys are coming in the lineup and playing great and playing hard. When we play the right way, we’re a tough team to beat and that’s what we’re showing right now.”
The Islanders return to action Saturday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres at Barclays Center at 7:30 pm. Then they conclude the regular season Sunday night at 7:00 pm against the Philadelphia Flyers. NOTES:
Forward Anders Lee was injured in the game and did not return. His status should be updated on Friday.
Injuries forced the Islanders to scratch Travis Hamonic, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, Mikhail Grabovski, J.F. Berube and Jaroslav Halak. Brian Strait and Scott Mayfield were also scratches for the Isles.
The Rangers were without defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. Oscar Lindberg was also a scratch.
Rookie defenseman Ryan Pulock led the Isles with 5 hits.