Your New York Islanders have won 2 of their first 3 games vs. the Rangers in 2013-14, including their most recent matchup on Jan. 21 at MSG. Tonight, they come off a tough 3 game stretch and meet a hot Rangers team fresh off a victory against the Devils at their last game on this ice. This game is huge and the Islanders know it. Back to back games against their most hated, yes hated rival are crucial to their play into the remainder of the season. The Rangers are 2-0 in outdoor games. Tonight marks the first for the Islanders. Lets see how an Isles/Rangers hockey game plays out with a 7 degree wind chill in front of 50,027 fans.
Forwards: Vanek-Tavares-Okposo; Regin-Nielsen-Bailey; Grabner-Nelson-Clutterbuck; Martin-Cizikas-McDonald.
D-Pairings: Strait-MacDonald; Hickey-Visnovsky; de Haan-Donovan.
Evgeni Nabokov is in net with Kevin Poulin on the bench.
The first period is a series of dumping and chasing as both teams struggle to organize a rush. Both teams come out flying, but the ice is rough, causing the puck to bounce and make finesse moves difficult. Isles get to the PP early but finish with no shots on net. They had trouble maintaining possession of the puck. Nabokov comes up big off a Tavares turnover in the defensive zone. Isles get back to the PP and generate some pressure, but come up empty. Isles out shoot Rangers 9-6 in the first.
The second period starts with a little more energy from the Isles. They are winning battles and starting to put some shots on the Ranger's net. Miscues include Grabner going high with a bouncing puck and Vanek unable handle a nice pass from JT, behind the net. Nabokov is quietly playing a good game for the Islanders. Isles kill off a PP chance for Rangers. As much as the Isles are outplaying the Rangers, they have failed to score. The longer this continues, the worse it will be for the Islanders. Isles return to the PP, but come up empty again. The Islanders not following up on shots to the net. There have been rebounds galore, all recovered by Rangers. Isles continue to press and move the puck to the slot where Brock Nelson (Donovan & Clutterbuck) scores to give the Isles a 1-0 lead in the final :90 seconds. The Rangers return the pressure and score with Nabokov out of position, score is tied at 1-1 with :45 seconds left in the period. Isles out shoot Rangers 15-14 in the second period and controlled the play for all but the very end of the period.
The Isles first line get lazy to start the third. Vanek gets called for a hook on Nash, but the Isles PK does its job behind Nabokov. A lot of calls are suddenly not be made here in the period. Rangers score off some transitional play and a screen in front of Nabokov, 2-1 Rangers. Nabokov with a huge save off a 2 on 1 Ranger rush. The Rangers have turned up the pressure late in the period and taken over the flow of the game. The Isles are doing everything they can to hold on in front of Nabokov. Defensively, they are in serious trouble. Nabokov is pulled for the extra attacker at the 1:05 mark of the third period, time out Islanders. Kyle Okposo comes very close, but fall to Rangers by a score of 2-1. Rangers out shoot the Isles 34-31 in the game.
I don't think I've seen the Isles timing and sticks so far out of sync all season long. It had to be this game? They were 0/3 on the PP and despite doing well in the face off circle, seemed to be playing a disorganized catch up for almost all of the third period. Credit to Brock Nelson for the Isles only goal on such a large stage. Other than Okposo, the first line did not play well. Evgeni Nabokov played well for Long Island going 32/34 with a .941Sv%. Despite a strong game by Donovan & de Haan, the Isles were loose on defense. They were especially suspect on the forward lines back checking efforts. Overall, the team still looks lost and seem to be off their mark over their last four games.
Friday is another chance to take it to the Rangers at MSG. Lets hope they find their snarl.
Capuano: "We're playing well enough to win, but we've gotta find a way to win."
Per NHL, "The New York Islanders and New York Rangers have met 247 times in the regular season, with NYR holding a 266-241 edge in total points."
Per Andy Graziano, "Isles 10-5-1 last 16, 9-2-0 in last 11 road games. 8-5-1 in January. They have won when behind by 2 goals NHL leading 8 times."