As a couple of my fellow bloggers already posted in previous entries, for the second time this season, the Islanders got the better of the Rangers posting another one-goal victory at the Coliseum in what was a very entertaining game last night.
The difference was the third period where a determined and fresher Ted Nolan squad took it to Tom Renney's Blueshirts with a very aggressive forecheck which helped them solve the sizzling Henrik Lundqvist. Up until that point, King Henrik had continued to baffle another quality Atlantic Division opponent keeping the Fishsticks off the board for the first 40 minutes to extend his shutout streak to seven-plus periods since permitting a first period goal (Sergei Brylin) in last Saturday's shootout win over the Devils.
If you watched the middle stanza closely, the Isles were really carrying the play forcing turnovers and getting excellent scoring chances before an undisciplined penalty led to Chris Drury's power play goal which put the Rangers in front. If you've followed this intense bitter rivalry, then you know how huge a goal can be because the team who scores usually gets a lot of momentum. Before the second period finished, the Rangers started to dictate play and came close to going ahead by two if not for Rick DiPietro.
It's worth noting that after the Rangers scored, Versus lost their feed for about two and a half minutes. Great job! Could you really see that happening on another network? Nevermind.
I did flip to the Islander radio feed on Bloomberg to hear them say that it had been all Rangers afterwards. Wouldn't it have been nice to actually see it? Quite a concept, huh?!?!?!?!?!
In any event, when they did finally return to air, the newly formed Jaromir Jagr line with rookie Brandon Dubinsky and Marcel "Stone Hands" Hossa generated some chances off the cycle but couldn't connect. It's hard not to like the chemistry the unlikely trio has. They're very good down low and hard to take off the puck as the Flyers found out the other night. But unless they start scoring, it doesn't make much sense to keep them together. Renney should give it a few more games before having to make a decision as injured forwards Martin Straka and Ryan Callahan inch closer to a return.
Maybe it was predictable what happened in the final period with it being their third game in four nights (fourth in six). I had pointed out to my brother early on that the wear and tear could become a factor later on. Not surprisingly, against a more rested desperate opponent, it did.
The Islanders were much sharper in all facets and found ways to attack the Ranger D and finally get the kind of shots which even Lundqvist couldn't stop. It started with Trent Hunter's rocket off a two-on-one setup by Ruslan Fedotenko. Dan Girardi turned over the puck early in the third and Fedotenko found Hunter in the slot, who made no mistake ripping one upstairs off the inside of the crossbar and out. As for WFAN's Steve Somers who asserted that the puck wasn't in, to our naked eye it looked like it was. The Schmoozer took the Versus camera angles and officials to task but nobody complained on the Ranger side. So my guess is he was hoping here.
A point on how uncharacteristic this period was. It's rare that Girardi makes glaring mistakes which leads to goals against. That the steady second-year blueliner committed a second when he accidentally high sticked Mike Comrie to lead to a tying Fedotenko PPG via a 4-on-3 responding to a Paul Mara tally was proof that New York just wasn't mentally sharp. Something their coach referred to when it was all over. He didn't make any excuses instead taking his team to task. That's the way it should be with a team which much is expected from.
The Islander game-winner off Miro Satan's stick was directly the result of another Ranger mental error. This time, the guilty party was Sean Avery, who was outmuscled along the boards while trying to clear the puck. Instead, Satan came off the wall and fired a lethal wrister top shelf for his third in two games. The streaky Slovak also got a couple in the Isles' come from behind 3-2 victory over the Penguins for victory No.740 in legendary coach Al Arbour's return to the bench for game No.1500.
Imagine if Satan always played with that fire. He'd still be in Buffalo.
To the Rangers' credit, they didn't go away instead getting a couple of great chances to equalize the riveting contest. But DiPietro was up to the task denying a couple of Blueshirts from in close including rookie Nigel Dawes who up till that point had been quiet.
It was a very good game no doubt and one where if you're a Ranger supporter, you came away a little frustrated at not being able to at least take it to overtime. Especially when it was all setup for Lundqvist to record his fifth shutout of a young season. But it wasn't meant to be on this night and was certainly understandable.
They've had a busy schedule lately and it will continue when they host another division rival Pittsburgh tomorrow night before heading up to Toronto for a HNIC game Saturday night.
You can't win them all. Maybe the day off will help Renney's club as it prepares for 2006-07 Hart recipient Sidney Crosby and the Pens. The wiz kid is red hot extending his career best point streak to 13 straight (9-13-22) after torching the Devils for two goals in a 5-0 road blowout at The Rock in Newark Monday.
How special is the 20 year-old former first overall 2005 selection? Since being held off the scoresheet in an Opening Night 4-1 defeat at Carolina, he's put up a point in every game since. During the impressive streak, the Cole Harbour Nova Scotia native has had seven multi-point games including a four-point night in a win at Minnesota on All Hallow's Eve last week.
He enters tonight's home game against the Flyers with nine points (5-4-9) in his last four. Just another reason to have Center Ice and check out the rest of the action.
Final thoughts on last night:
-Rookie Marc Staal again impressed teaming with Michal Rozsival. In 18:11 of ice-time, the 20 year-old was excellent in his decision making and started to display some of those ferocious hits which made YouTube during a brilliant Junior career- delivering a couple of great takeouts on attacking Isles. He also continued to look more confident with the puck and again narrowly missed a highlight reel goal floating a backhand wide.
-Mara had his best game of the season notching a goal and assist while playing a very active game on D in 17:51 finishing plus-one.
-Scott Gomez again was very effective tallying an assist to make it four consecutive games with a point. The playmaking pivot continues to find chemistry with Avery and Petr Prucha. It was his stickhandling which created Mara's go-ahead tally drawing two defenders behind the net which allowed Avery to find the wide open defenseman in front for a tip-in.
Gomez has also been very responsible in his end doing a solid job backchecking. He was good on draws. About the only thing he needs to do more of is shoot the puck. At times last night, he had the Islanders on their heels but was too unselfish. He's got a very good shot and needs to use it. It will make that line that much more dangerous.
-Weird stat of Night: Colton Orr (10:01 TOI) while Blair Betts had 9:18 and Ryan Hollweg got 9:51. Betts kills penalties while the other rugged pair are more known for their physicality. That they received that much ice-time tells you what Renney thought of their games last night.
-Comrie was the best player on the ice finishing with two helpers. His skating was really effective, especially in the deciding third when the Islanders found gaps in the Ranger coverage to generate offense. What a pickup he's been so far. Who would you rather have? The playmaking Comrie (5-10-15) for a short-term deal or Dainius Zubrus (0-6-6) for six? Got to toss Gomez (3-4-7) in there as well even though he's more accomplished.
-Fedotenko also was really good in this one tallying a goal and assist. Think the Lightning miss him at all?
Can't wait for the next battle between these classic rivals!