Turning the Tables: Isles Torpedo Rangers, Win 6-2
Dwindling in the midst of a three game losing streak, the New York Islanders needed to do something to recreate the positive vibe they had earlier. They needed something to take pride in.
If there was a single home game that meant more to this organization, the players, coaches and fans than any other this season, you'd have to say that last night's might have been that game. And what a contest (or lack thereof) it was for these young Islanders.
In front of a sellout crowd at Nassau Coliseum, the Isles dominated the Rangers, virtually from start to finish. As chants of "let's go Islanders" and "let's go Rangers" echoed around the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike, the home team was generating scoring chances, almost at will.
Within minutes of the opening faceoff, the Isles had at least two odd-man rushes and held a 5-0 edge in shots on goal. Unfortunately, a loose puck found its way on the stick of Rangers forward Vinny Prospal and he was able to beat Al Montoya with a slapper, putting the Blueshirts ahead 1-0 and sending the Ranger fan contingent into a frenzy.
Being that these Rangers are a so-called "playoff team," you'd think this would have sparked a winning performance by Gaborik and Co. Speaking of Marian Gaborik, he should have received a five-minute major, a misconduct and a ticket to the dressing room for his blatant head-shot on Frans Nielsen during the first period. You know, the kind of call Trevor Gillies gets for lining up for a faceoff. Frans, who happens to lead the NHL in shorthanded goals and is one of the most underrated players in the league, did not return.
How Gaborik was allowed to stay in that game is beyond me, and I certainly hope that Colin Campbell will make the right decision and discipline the Ranger forward for his poor judgement. Not to mention that, considering his team is clinging desperately to a playoff spot, the risk he took (players are suspended in this league for hits to the head) could have put an even larger dent in their postseason aspirations.
Though the visitors were on top 1-0 after 20 minutes, it wouldn't take the Islanders very long to respond. Enraged over the cheap shot on Nielsen, the Isles stormed out of the gate in the second period. They were a powder keg, ready to explode. And explode they did.
First, it was Blake Comeau on a rebound to tie the score and just 33 seconds later, Radek Martinek wired a rocket, top-shelf behind Henrik Lundqvist to put the Isles in front, 2-1. The Blue and Orange would score two more goals before the end of 40 minutes of play, with Jesse Joensuu and P.A. Parenteau finding the back of the net and giving the Isles a 4-1 advantage.
Rangers head coach John Torterella elected to go with Chad Johnson between the pipes for the start of the third period, in an attempt to change his team's fortunes. Needless to say, it didn't work. The Islanders would give Johnson a warm, Long Island welcome, lighting the lamp twice more, with goals from Matt Moulson (his 31st of the season, a new career high) and Trevor Gillies. At that point, the scoreboard had been turned upside-down, as had the Rangers. The Blueshirts would score a late goal to cut the deficit to 6-2, but it was far too late.
The Isles were getting production from several players, including some unexpected contributions, such as Dylan Reese (three assists) and Gillies. John Tavares finished his night with a pair of helpers. He now has 63 points on the season. Al Montoya turned in another strong performance with 25 saves against his former employers. He has earned every penny in that new contract of his.
The Islanders are certainly improving in many ways, but they still need to work on their discipline. They took some very dumb penalties, most notably Ty Wishart's high-stick during the second period. Had Wishart been an offensive lineman in the NFL, that would have been one heck of a play. In the NHL, it's a penalty, and a dumb one to take.
Tensions were running high throughout the contest, with several frequent fighters dropping the gloves. But even unexpected challengers, like Jack Hillen and Brandon Dubinsky felt the need to settle their differences with an exchange of fisticuffs. Hillen delivered a picture-perfect hip check on Ranger forward Brandon Prust, flipping him over and drawing the ire of several Blueshirts.
The best is yet to come for these New York Islanders. We saw a glimpse of that limitless potential last night and we'll see more of it as this team continue to mature. All in all, it was an amazing evening for the player, the fans and everyone associated with this rising team.
Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter: @dfriedman_isles