NEW YORK, N.Y. (Feb. 14, 2013) – Trailing 2-0 after one period of play, the New York Islanders rebounded with a three-goal outburst in the second to take the lead, and eventually went on to defeat the New York Rangers in a shootout, 4-3, in a Valentine’s Day Atlantic Division tilt on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. With the win, the Isles snapped a five-game losing streak and an eight-game skid at MSG, dating back to 2009.
In the shootout, the Rangers had elected to shoot first. Marian Gaborik, who was stopped by Tuukka Rask on Tuesday in Boston, was also stonewalled by Evgeni Nabokov, with the right pad. Frans Nielsen then put the Islanders up by a 1-0 count, as he skated in, and beat Martin Biron through the five hole. In the second round, Rick Nash tried to tie it up, but could not beat Nabokov, who made 36 stops on the night, to the backhand.
With a chance to win it, Isles’ captain John Tavares approached center ice for his attempt. Like Nash, Tavares went to the backhand. However, unlike his counterpart, beat Biron to his right side to end the game.
At the start of the game, it was all Rangers though. The Blueshirts outshot their opposition 10-0 over the first 14 minutes, and netted a pair of tallies in the process for a 2-0 advantage at the break. The first goal came courtesy of Dan Girardi. Off a dump and chase, Carl Hagelin, from around the net, fed Girardi, who one-timed a shot from the right circle past Nabokov for the early lead. The marker for Girardi was his first of the 2012-13 campaign.
“We usually want to get that first goal, but we got lazy,” Hagelin said. “It prevented us from getting the two points. We have to correct it.”
The hosts kept up the strong forecheck throughout the frame, and were rewarded yet again with 8:32 remaining. Marian Gaborik, who came into the contest with 34 career points (20 g, 14 a) against the Islanders, put back a rebound into the right-side netting, after Brad Richards was stopped by Nabokov on back-to-back attempts.
In the second period, an early goal by Colin McDonald led to a three-goal spurt in a six-minute stretch, which gave the visitors a 3-2 cushion with 12:35 left. Tavares followed with the equalizer at the 13:15 mark. After the Blueshirts failed to capitalize on a 30-second 5-on-3, and a 1:30 power-play opportunity, Tavares spearheaded a 2-on-1 rush for the Islanders just as time expired on the penalty, and wristed one by Biron to knot it up at 2-2.
“We had a couple of looks, but it is certainly not where it needs to be” stated Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella about the 5-on-3.” Marc Staal added, “They were pretty aggressive. We weren’t moving quick enough, and it shifted the momentum in their favor.”
Less than a minute later, Brad Boyes got the go-ahead score. Off another odd-man chance, Lubomir Visnovsky dished the puck off to a streaking Boyes, who fired a shot into the twine from the bottom of the circle.
Nevertheless, the Rangers, who once had a two-goal edge, and were asleep at the wheel, finally awoke. In the dwindling seconds of a man advantage, off an interference penalty by Brian Strait, Hagelin stuffed the puck just inside the left post to deadlock the match at 3-apiece. Upon review, the officials confirmed the call on the ice, and Hagelin, who had earlier been robbed of a tally due to a dislodged net, picked up his fifth goal of the year.
“I am more experienced now, and feeling more comfortable,” Hagelin described. “Playing with good players certainly helps as well.’
In the final 20 minutes of regulation, and the five-minute overtime session, Biron and Nabokov were spectacular between the pipes, closing up the pads for a combined zero goals, and 27 saves. “I give him (Biron) credit (on bouncing back),” Tortorella stated. “He was one of the big reasons we got a point (tonight). He made the big saves when he needed to.”
For the contest, the Blueshirts owned a 39-31 margin in the shot department, alongside a 9-3 edge in takeaways and 44-32 advantage in the faceoff circle. Meanwhile, the Islanders sported a 33-29 clip in their favor for hits. In net, Nabokov turned aside a game-high 36 shots. Biron made 28 saves in his second start of the season.
“It was a good hockey game,” Isles Head Coach Jack Capuano described. “We were down two goals early, and couldn’t get anything going. It’s a credit to them…We changed lines, and responded (in the second period). We had to shake things up a bit. It’s about work ethic and responding, and they stepped up.”
The Islanders return to the ice on Saturday (Feb. 16), when they face another Atlantic rival, the New Jersey Devils, at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. at 7 p.m. One day later, the Rangers are back at it, squaring off against the Washington Capitals, at the Garden at 6 p.m.