Tonight’s 2-1 Islanders loss to the New York Rangers was a fitting way to end an era. In their last visit to the Nassau Coliseum, the Rangers came out with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Islanders before a loud and enthusiastic sellout crowd at the Nassau Coliseum.
“I couldn’t ask for a better effort,” Isles’ head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “We executed our game plan.”
The Islanders were 0-for-4 on the power play but managed only two shots on goal. They often passed up quality scoring chances to make additional passes.
“Obviously, the power play was a huge part of this game tonight. We just didn’t shoot enough pucks,” Capuano added.
These two teams have met 126 times during the regular season at the Nassau Coliseum. Fittingly, the score in the last meeting was identical to the score in the first: Rangers 2, Islanders 1. The first meeting came back on October 21, 1972. Back then, the Rangers were one of league’s elite while the Islanders were a lowly expansion team. Tonight, the battle was between two established teams fighting for first place in the closely contested Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders got off to a fast start, registering seven of the first eight shots on goal and taking a 1-0 lead 9:35 into the game on Anders Lee’s 23rd goal of the season. The goal came on a wraparound. Lee showed great persistence on the play and actually scored on his second wraparound attempt. He continued to control the puck behind the Rangers goal, keeping defenders at bay before beating Cam Talbot for the game’s first tally.
The Islanders controlled the play for most of the first period and outshot the Rangers 13-7. They had their chances to increase their lead, but Talbot managed to keep it a one-goal game.
The Rangers seized the momentum in the second period and finally drew even on an impressive goal by Kevin Hayes. Hayes outmuscled Thomas Hickey and blew past Ryan Strome before putting the puck past Jaroslav Halak to tie the game at 11:35 of the second stanza.
Both teams had quality chances to pull ahead, but the go-ahead goal was scored on a fluky deflection at the 2:50 mark of the third period. Rick Nash’s shot from the right circle deflected off Strome’s skate, changed direction and went past Halak to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
“It was a tough one to lose like this,” Halak said after the game. “He was going to the corner but all of a sudden, it ended up in the net. Obviously, it was a lucky bounce. That was the difference.”
The Islanders had some quality chances to tie the game in the third period, but Talbot stopped all seven shots the Islanders put on goal in the third period and made 29 saves overall to earn the win.
“It was a good, hard game to come off the road. I thought we did well, but we still lost the game,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “We’ve got to bear down and learn from it because that was a playoff type game.”
The loss dropped the Isles record to 43-22-4 on the season, just one point ahead of the Rangers who still have four games in hand.
The Islanders get a much-needed two days off before returning to action Friday night when they host the Ottawa Senators at 7 pm.
This game marked the end of an era. It will be the last time the Rangers and Islanders meet on Nassau Coliseum ice during the regular season. In the end, the Islanders finished with a 65-53-8 mark at home against their Broadway rivals. The Islanders also won the season series 3-2-0.
Of course, these two rivals could meet again in the playoffs this season. That would be the ideal way for the Nassau Coliseum to go out in style.
Defenseman Nick Leddy missed the game with an undisclosed injury he suffered Monday night in Toronto. That ended a 320-game consecutive games played streak for Leddy.
Kyle Okposo returned to action for the first time since January 19th. Coach Jack Capuano said Okposo’s timing was a bit off although that was to be expected after such a long absence. Okposo played 18:33 and registered three shots on goal.
The Islanders announced their 19th home sellout of the season. That was the same amount the team over the previous four seasons combined.