|NYI 4, NYR 2
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Looking for their seventh-straight win, the Rangers visited an Islanders team in Brooklyn Thursday night that has earned points in seven of its last ten, working its way out of the Eastern Conference cellar and into playoff contention. The Blueshirts, who lead the NHL with 19 road wins, needed to play a smart road game against the Islanders who had taken points in nine straight at the Barclay’s Center, where the Rangers have never won. For the most part the Rangers were smart and held a decisive edge in play, but 50:00 isn’t often enough to win in the NHL, and it wasn’t tonight, as the Rangers lost 4-2.
For the Blueshirts, it was Henrik Lundqvist standing tall early as the Rangers had to kill off two penalties (both calls were kind of “meh”) in the first six minutes of play. That included a sweet glove save on Ryan Strome on the Islanders’ first shot.
But just eight seconds after his penalty ended, Nick Holden found himself in a 2-on-1 and deposited Mats Zuccarello’s slick feed to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead on their first shot. With a heady outlet pass to spring the play, Brady Skjei registered his 21st even-strength assist of the year, good for fourth amongst all defenseman in the league.
Holden goal pic.twitter.com/eCNnlq6KtU
— nope (@myregularface) February 17, 2017
The Rangers were otherwise excellent on the forecheck and forced the Islanders into seven first-period turnovers. Despite registering just five shots, the Rangers dictated play and played a strong road period—the type of road period you need to play against a team that’s been excellent at home. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t hold the lead for long.
During the first intermission, newly appointed interim head coach of the Islanders, Doug Weight, who owns an 8-3-2 record to start his coaching career, must have given an excellent speech. The Isles came out with a jump and intensity that the Rangers didn’t match and scored twice in the period’s first six and a half minutes to take a 2-1 lead that lasted until intermission. Opposite of the first period, it was the Rangers who failed to capitalize on their two power plays.
To start the third, the Rangers had the opportunity to tie the game 2-2, with just under a full 4:00 man advantage.
While Jimmy Vesey, who had jump all night playing with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, scored late in the man advantage, a lazily allowed shorthanded goal mitigated its impact on the scoreboard.
The shorty and power play goal in succession seemed to breathe some life into a rivalry that has been largely non-existent of late and the third period felt much more like that rivalry of old than the first two did. But while the Rangers had the ice tilted and tallied 11 shots, many of high-quality, they couldn’t find the equalizer. Andrew Ladd’s second goal of the night into the empty net ended the comeback attempt.
Overall, this is a loss that you don’t dwell on. Other than the power play struggles and ten or so minutes of lethargic hockey, the Rangers put in a good road effort. Responding will be key, but this loss isn’t a sign of a decline in the team’s play.
The Rangers are back in action on Sunday as they’ll battle the NHL-leading Capitals at 12:30.
Notes: The Rangers were 0-for-10 on the power play over the last four games before Thursday; Vesey has goals in back-to-back games; Skjei had two assists; The Rangers owned the shot advantage 27-23; Adam Clendening didn’t play on the power play but took an offensive zone faceoff with less than 2:00 remaining in the game; and the Rangers haven’t scored a 5-on-3 or 4-on-3 power play goal yet this year.