New York, NY – The New York Rangers (16-11-1) earned the home-and-home sweep of the New York Islanders (5-14-5) in hockey action on Friday night. For the Blueshirts they have now won six of their last eight games, as well as keeper Henrik Lundqvist earning his fourth shutout of the season.
“I love to compete. When you have a shutout like that it means you did a lot of good things,” Lundqvist said after the game. “Tonight, the team did well. It was the easiest shutout this year I have had. The biggest thing with how we played is that guys did a great job performing in front of me.”
In front of 18,200 fans at Madison Square Garden these two Metropolitan Rivals squared off for the second part of the home-and-home series. The first period was a physical grinding frame for both teams as they both were able to dish out some hard hits. Both squads also had good scoring opportunities but neither was able to cash in.
“It was a chippy first period. Both teams tightened up defensively,” said Staal on the first period of play. “Both teams got fewer chances. We did a better job of holding onto the puck in our zones. We lost some battles, but compared to last night we did a better job.”
The Blueshirts finally got on the board at the 4:33 mark of the second period as The Rangers were on a power play as Jon Sim went into the sin bin for 2:00 for Goalkeeper Interference. It was beautiful puck movement by Derek Stephan (10) and Brandon Dubinsky (10) who got the puck to Mark Staal. Staal (4) let loose a 49 foot slap shot to give the Rangers the 1-0 lead.
“We had some good movement throughout the whole power play,” Staal said of his goal after the game. “I think we tired them out. I just dragged it and tried to get it by them and it ended up going in.” He would continue to say, “Last night was a bit ugly. Tonight we grinded one out a victory; those guys play tough. We ended up getting both wins and obviously we are happy about that.”
As the start of the third period ticked away both squads tried to gain offensive momentum but neither was able to sustain much pressure as there were a lot of odd man rushes for both squads. Jack Hillen had a great opportunity for the Islanders at the 7:06 mark letting off a 41 foot slap shot that hit the crossbar, but could not cash in on a second chance opportunity.
“We didn’t get enough pucks to the net,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “It was kind of a feel it out game in the first period with the shots at 6-3. A power play decides the game, but we had opportunities to get guys to the net.”
When asked about his teams troubles on the power play, as the Rangers were 2-2 in killing the power play opportunities Capuano would have this to say, “Tonight we had good movement, but again, when you get the puck on top you have to shoot it. I’m not going to waste around with the same personnel. I mean if guys aren’t going to do it, other guys are going to play. We’ve gone over this now. I don’t mind not scoring on the power play, as long as we’re doing what we’re asking them to do. Whether it is five defensemen or five rookies it doesn’t matter.”
John Tavares would have this to say on the Islanders special teams play, “They are always important. Their goal was on the power play so we have to find a way to get one through too. These are games when you learn how to win, and those are big parts to the game.”
Travis Hamonic also had a good opportunity for the Islanders attempting a 35 foot snapshot that was saved by Lundqvist who finished the night with 17 saves. On the other side of the ice Islanders keeper Dwayne Roloson was solid making 19 saves. Both squads had a low shot count as the Rangers edged the Islanders by a tally of 21-17.
Lundqvist would have this to say on the low scoring game, “If you don’t see the puck for a while it is hard, but I got to see the puck a few times and made some saves so I felt confident.”
The Blueshirts had good opportunities of their own but it wasn’t until an empty net goal at the 19:57 mark by Brian Boyle iced the victory and the sweep for the Rangers.
Up next for the Rangers they will have a 5:00 p.m. face-off on Sunday evening as they host the Ottawa Senators. The Islanders will also have a home game on Sunday as they have a 1:00 p.m. face-off with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Charity Note: The New York Rangers had their fifth annual Children’s Coat Drive on Friday night December 3, 2010. The Rangers along with the Garden of Dreams Foundation have teamed up to keep the various community ice arenas to keep New York children warm this winter. Fans attending the game were encouraged to bring a new or gently-used coat at The Garden and all fans who donated received a commemorative item.