The New York Rangers have officially played their craziest game of the season, tonight, against the New York Islanders. In a game that saw hits, fights, leads disappear, and oh yes, plenty of goals, the Blueshirts were victorious in front of a very small crowd at Nassau Coliseum, 6-5. It truly was surprising at how few people were in attendance tonight. The Islanders have had problems drawing fans all season long, but the Rangers are usually their one sure night for packing the house—a beat writer on Twitter estimated that there were less than 11,000 people in the stands just after the puck dropped. But nevertheless, tonight’s game was absolutely crazy. From a fan’s perspective, it was pure entertainment, from a coach’s point of view, it was a nightmare.
- First Period: The Rangers started out on the right foot, although the first four minutes of the game were brutally slow, with plenty whistles and no flow to the play. It took a fight, between Trevor Gillies and Derek Boogaard, to get things going. Both players agreed to scrap, and Gillies danced around Boogaard faking and deking while the latter stood perfectly still, waiting for punches to be thrown. Needless to say, Boogaard handily won the fight, landing punches throughout, though Gillies did take him down in the end. The pace of the game would then increase, and the Rangers jumped on top when Erik Christensen (4) scored top corner on Rick DiPietro, who thought he had the net covered. The goal was a result of a complete team effort in the newly formed first line, with Avery and Gaborik getting the assists. The Rangers would extend their lead with three minutes remaining, when Ryan Callahan (8) one-timed a Dubinsky pass in front, after a falling Derek Stepan was able to slide the puck over to him. At this point, the Rangers were completely controlling the play, though they were missing the net wide with a lot of their shots. Despite this, however, they could not get out of the period with a two-goal lead, as Zenon Konopka scored with just under a minute remaining. Poor rebound control would finally come back to bite Biron, though he played very steady in the period.
- Second Period: As good as the Rangers looked in the first was as bad as they looked for the majority of the second. The Islanders came out strong and were polar opposites of how they played in the first period. They would tie the game on a Matt Moulson goal in front, and then take the lead three minutes later when Rob Schremp scored. As for Martin Biron, it was just not his night and he looked shaky for the 32 minutes he played. By that point, Tortorella had seen enough, and yanked him in favor of Lundqvist, who would only have to make one save in the final seven minutes of the period that he played. Meanwhile, the Rangers used the goaltending change as a chance to turn their game around. A Marc Staal shot would deflect off Brandon Prust’s (2) stick and then off the Islander’s Radek Martinek and into the net. Three minutes later, the Rangers would retake the lead on the powerplay, when a Marian Gaborik (6) pass would deflect off Konopka’s stick and past DiPietro. The goal would originally be credited to Callahan, but he admitted during the intermission that it was Gaborik’s goal. The Rangers finished the period on a very high note, and left the second exactly where they left the first, with a one goal lead.
- Third Period: The Rangers would continue their improved play from the end of the second early in the third, when Marian Gaborik (7) scored off a great set-up by Avery who passed it to him from behind the net. The joy would not last long, though, as the Islanders would quickly make their two goal deficit vanish. Michael Grabner scored with less than eight minutes remaining, and Blame Comeau tied it less than two minutes after that. Their lead was gone in the blink of an eye, and the Islanders seemed to have all the momentum. Just when it looked like the game was slipping from the Rangers’ grasp, Marian Gaborik (8) would net his hat-trick goal to give the Rangers a lead that they finally would not relinquish. Lundqvist looked shaky during those two hectic minutes, but rebounded with some nice saves towards the end of the period. Overall, he would only face 11 shots in just about a half a game played. The Islanders would end up out-shooting the Rangers 32-26.
As fun as this game was to watch, and as nice as it is to score six goals in a game, the Rangers really need to take a look at this game and be alarmed at the fact that they allowed five goals to the worst team in hockey. Granted, this was a rivalry game and the Islanders always wake up to play them, but the coaching staff will really not be smiling much after this game. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
It is also truly amazing at how important late goals are. Had the Islanders not scored their goal in the first, the Rangers’ momentum would have not been halted, and they probably would have blown them out of the water. But instead, the Islanders get on the board, and the Rangers barely win it. This definitely has to be a concern.
On a good note, the Rangers’ newly assembled first line was almost unstoppable tonight. Sean Avery was played on the wing to work with Gaborik and Christensen, and just this morning, was told by John Tortorella to not be a playmaker, and work on being physical. He responded with a three assist night. Gaborik would have three goals and an assist, and Christensen would have a goal and an assist. Combined, they were a plus-eight.
Brandon Prust also continued his outstanding play, and showing how much of a warrior he really is. Already not 100%, he was banged up even more tonight after he went hard into the boards in the third period, but kept on chugging along, refusing to sit out. It is nice to see a hard worker like him rewarded with a goal every now and then.
Michael Sauer got into yet another fight tonight, with Travis Hamonic. He has shown some good size and toughness this season, and the Rangers could really use that physicality on the blueline on a regular basis.
With Rick DiPietro saying earlier today that he takes a special pleasure in beating the Rangers, it was really nice seeing him give up six goals tonight. These two teams will meet again tomorrow night, at Madison Square Garden, which will hopefully be as intense as this one was—I only hope that the defense is much tighter.
EDIT: This just in, the Islanders have been placed for sale on Craiglist.