The Rangers enjoyed their first visit to the UBS Arena.
Facing a severely depleted and undermanned Islander team, the Rangers took care of business with a solid, 4-1 win over their hated rivals in a game that many thought should not have even been played.
The Rangers (12-4-3) won their second in a row and made it six of their last seven while the Islanders (5-9-2) dropped their seventh straight game.
The Islanders were missing a total of ten players due to Covid and lower body injuries. Significant players like Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock, just to name a few.
Chris Kreider and Kevin Rooney each scored twice, while Ryan Reaves had two assists as part of a Rangers’ fourth line that was their best line in this one.
“They were obviously the key to our win tonight,” coach Gerard Gallant said after the game.
Igor Shesterkin made 20 saves in winning his 10th game and the first of his career in six tries against the Islanders. Semyon Varlamov, who has been tough on the Rangers in the past, made 17 saves and was the reason that the Islanders were even able to stay in this one with such a depleted lineup.
“You can’t take teams like that lightly as they’re sometime the hungriest teams. You take ‘em lightly, they’ll step on your throat quick,” Reaves said.
After a scoreless first period, Islanders center Mat Barzal was called for hooking just six seconds into the second.
Kreider cashed in the man advantage and got the Rangers on the board with his 9th power play goal (tying him with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl for the league lead) and his 14th of the season. Kreider was stationed at the side of the net and redirected a Ryan Strome shot past Varlamov for a 1-0 lead at 0:29 seconds of the second period. Adam Fox was credited with his 15th assist as he continued his strong start to the season.
At 14:28 of the second, the Rangers took a 2-0 lead as Rooney scored his first of the night off a nice feed down low from Barclay Goodrow.
The Islanders cut the lead in half at 3:52 of the third period when Andy Andreoff scored his first goal as an Islander. The crowd at the UBS Arena came alive but their excitement did not last long as the Rangers came right back 20 seconds later when Rooney scored his second of the game to make it a 3-1 advantage.
Gallant put the fourth line out after the Islander goal and they gave more than expected. “We just want to create momentum for the team. If the pucks go in, they go in,” Rooney said after his first career multi-goal game.
Reaves and Rooney connected on a two-on-one, odd man rush to make it a 3-1 contest. Reaves skated in on left wing and backhanded a pretty pass to Rooney who buried it for his 2nd of the night and 5th of the season.
“The crowd’s in it, they think they have the momentum, said Reaves. “It’s demoralizing when you score before you could announce the goal the other team scores and kinda takes the momentum back.”
Kreider completed the scoring at 11:02 of the third period. Mika Zibanejad pounced on a loose puck down low and he fed Kreider, who beat Varlamov on the stick side for his second goal of the game and 15th of the season.
Kreider is in the midst of the most consistent stretch of his career with 15 goals in 19 games. “Playing with some really good players,” he said after the game.
Gallant took it a step further. “I know in the past, people talk about his consistency sometimes, but I love what he’s done the first 19 games for us,”he said. “He’s played hard every night and he’s doing a good job on the PK. I just think he’s full of confidence and he’s tired of not making the playoffs the last few years.”
Late in the third, the game got a little chippy after Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who was not penalized, gave Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren a shot to his chin that temporarily took him out of the game.
Fox, who played another strong, all around game, did not take kindly to that hit so he went after Pageau and got a two minute penalty.
The pursuit of Pageau was not over. With less than two minutes left, Alexis Lafreniere drew a fighting penalty as he went at it with the Islanders’ veteran center.
Rangers are in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind second place Washington with a game in hand. They also improved their road record to 7-3-2 and are 4-1 against divisional opponents.