Prior to the game, Islanders tough guy Zenon Konopka felt the need to have words with several Rangers in the pre game including Avery. Passions were clearly on show. Beginning the first, The Rangers struggled to contain and deal with the Islanders fore-check as the Isles spent a lot of time in the Rangers zone early. It took a few minutes for the Rangers to get some rhythm as the game was played at a good pace. Sean Avery and Derek Boogaard both had early chances while Rick DiPietro started strongly in net for the Islanders. The first fight of the game wasn’t long in coming as 9 minutes in, pre game loudmouth Konopka got into it with Brandon Prust. Both players threw a lot of punches in a long fight which was pretty even.
Soon after the fight, Christensen took a poor penalty to give the Isles the first PP of the game. The Rangers PK was aggressive and dealt with the Isles well when Gaborik broke free and was hauled down by veteran Doug Weight. Gaborik was awarded a penalty shot but was stopped by DiPietro. First goal of the game came to the Isles 13 minutes in. Mike Del Zotto made a big mistake as he coughed the puck up right in front of Lundqvist and Blake Comeau scored on the second attempt. Del Zotto got caught trying to do too much and mishandled.
Following good play by Alex Frolov the Rangers got their first powerplay which they immediately cashed in on. After good play from Del Zotto (redeeming himself from earlier) Brandon Dubinsky had his two shots blocked before getting his own rebound scoring at the third attempt. It was a great response from the Rangers while Dubinsky continued his hot start to the year. Good to see was Sean Avery continuing his play from game one. Vocal and in everyone’s face, Avery continued to occupy every Islander he could. If the ‘grate one’ continues like this it bodes well for the Blueshirts.
3 minutes from the end of the first Lundqvist first made a brilliant save before Josh Bailey was able to score soon after. Bailey’s goal came after another cough up from Del Zotto who had trouble dealing with a puck in front. Defensively, MDZ was not good (at all) in the first. The period was fast, physical and end to end.
The Second period started like the first as the Isles camped in the Rangers zone. Shortly after, aggressive play from the Rangers saw Ryan Callahan get a good look on DiPietro but his shot was saved. Soon after, more Rangers pressure saw Avery have a goal disallowed on what seemed an early whistle. DiPietro couldn’t locate the puck and Avery was there to poke home but it wasn’t given. The second period was played at a fast pace.
The Rangers got their 2nd PP and they cashed in again. Following great movement on the powerplay Del Zotto shot the puck from deep and it took a deflection and went in. With MDZ it really is about living with the growing pains and enjoying the offense the young man brings. Rangers got a 3rd powerplay 11 minutes into the second period. The Rangers didn’t cash in on the PP but scored straight after it expired as Dan Girardi shot the puck high from the slot to score 3-2; it was a great shot from Girardi though DiPietro was screened by his own men. Although it wasn’t a PP goal the powerplay was lethal during the first two periods.
A 4th powerplay didn’t bring anything but the Rangers nearly scored on a wrap around from Christensen but after a review the goal didn’t stand as it wasn’t clear whether it had crossed the line. Christensen played very little in the 2nd period and had no powerplay time. The Rangers played a strong second period in response to the defensive lapses of the first although right toward the end of the 2nd, against the run of play the Isles tied the game after Moulson followed in a shot and batted in the rebound. Girardi allowed Moulson to skate right past him; a bad way for the Rangers to end the second. A few flashes aside, Gaborik was relatively quiet although his work rate was excellent.
Right at the start of the 3rd period Marc Staal rang one off a post before having to take an interference penalty to stop a Isles breakaway. The Rangers killed off another penalty with some strong play shortly after which the Isles had a huge chance to score with Lundqvist on the ice but failed to convert.
Like the second period, the play was fast paced with the Rangers getting good chances to score. The Rangers, much like in Buffalo, were going to the net well and getting pucks on net. The Anisimov – Callahan – Dubinsky was very active while DiPietro looked solid in net all night for the fish sticks. The game continued to be physical with the referee’s whistle not stopping things from getting angry.
12 minutes in, following a burst into the zone by Josh Bailey, Marian Gaborik, trailing the play took a penalty and stopped a likely scoring chance. The Rangers PK played strong again – excellent effort – especially Dubinsky who had a strong game all round. A minute after and the Rangers took the lead. Great stick handling from Gaborik found Anisimov in the point whose shot sneaked past DiPietro. The goal followed a period of good play from the Rangers.
With 5 minutes left in the game, following two penalties to the Rangers, The Isles had a long 5 on 3 powerplay. Lundqvist, who got progressively stronger throughout the game, made saves on Moulson and Parenteau before the ex Ranger scored on the 5 on 3. Shortly after the tying goal the Isles scored again on the powerplay when Blake Comeau (who had a very strong game) scored after a great pass from Josh Bailey. The islanders wrapped it up with an empty net goal through Frans Nielsen following another cough up from Del Zotto.
Somehow the Islanders won the game. They stay in games, fore check, chip away and don’t let teams get good leads. The Rangers lost this game. They played poorly defensively, missed good chances and didn’t put the Isles away when they had the chance. The game was chippy, physical and fast paced all game but the Rangers need to tighten up a lot if they’re to take advantage of a clearly improved offense from last year.
Rangers that did themselves credit include Artem Anisimov’s entire line, specifically Dubinsky, Sean Avery who continued his strong start to the year and Marian Gaborik who got better as the game progressed. Rangers who didn’t? Erik Christensen (if he isn’t injured) has a spot under threat. He played sparingly as the game progressed and wasn’t effective. Del Zotto played well on offense but poor in his own zone. He’ll need to sharpen up considerably. The Rangers as a group will need to sharpen up considerably. Two points thrown away.