Islanders Defeat Rangers 4-3, Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

The stage was set for an emotional carry over into Saturday morning regardless of the outcome of Friday night's Islanders/Rangers game; a win for the Isles against their biggest rival and top team in the Eastern Conference would keep their playoff hopes alive, but a loss to their number one foe would have been a crushing blow to their confidence and chances. 

Fortunately, the orange and blue would  prevail with a 4-3 shootout victory with Matt Moulson netting the finally tally in the fourth round. (Photo Credit: Robert Kowal/Flickr)

Tensions were high at the start of the game and Matt Martin decided to ease things up a bit by fighting Stu Bickel just over two minutes into the contest. Both got their licks in before Martin swung and missed, falling to the ice to end the fight early. A fair draw would set the tone for how evenly the game would be played.

Moulson would add a goal and an assist to his shootout tally last night, getting the Islanders on the board at the 6:07 mark of the first period. John Tavares dipped and deked behind Marty Biron's net and fed his line mate in the slot for a quick snapper. Andrew MacDonald received the other assist. 

Just a little over two minutes later, P.A. Parenteau would receive another Tavares pass, this one from behind JT's back in the neutral zone. Parenteau skated in over the blue line and fired a slap shot past Biron to give his team a 2-0 lead. Travis Hamonic, who returned to the line-up for the first time after taking a puck to the face a few weeks ago, was sporting a bird cage on his face and picked up the other assist.

"Yeah I was saying earlier I don't think that the cage really affected my play at all," said Hamonic after the game.

"Just a bit of an annoyance factor if anything. I felt a little bit extra safe out there."

It didn't prevent Hammer from playing his game either. He picked up more minutes from head coach Jack Capuano as the game progressed and was seen making plays, taking hits along the boards and still defending his teammates when necessary.

"Nerves and not feeling ready and timing, there wasn't going to be any excuses for me," added Hamonic.

"I tried to do a good job in the last two and a half, three weeks to just keep myself prepared and mentally ready to go when I got that opportunity that I wouldn't have any excuses, whether I was playing good or bad, I wanted to make sure that I was ready to go."

(Photo Credit: bridgetds/Flickr)

The Rangers would get a power play goal from Marc Staal almost just as quickly as Marty Reasoner entered the penalty box. Anton Stralman and John Mitchell supplied the helpers for what would cut the Islanders two-goal lead down to one heading into the middle frame. 

About midway through, Parenteau would score his second goal of the night on the power play, regaining a two-goal lead by making the score 3-1 in favor of the Islanders. He quickly found the rebound from a shot that came from Moulson in the slot and buried it on his backhand. Andrew MacDonald got the other assist right after completing a line change with Hamonic. 

But the two-goal lead wouldn't last long. Marian Gaborik would sneak behind the Isles defense and get a breakaway on Evgeni Nabokov, who made 33 saves on 36 shots in his first start in a few games after battling the flu. Gaborik made a few moves before rifling a snap shot into the back of the net. Stu Bickel and Artem Anisimov were credited with the set up for the home run play.

A few minutes later, Derek Stepan would score a fluky power play goal with a bad angle shot that appeared to have hit off of Hamonic and behind Nabokov. Gaborik and Ryan Callahan assisted on the game tying goal. 

A quiet third period meant over time. The New York Rangers would get a power play opportunity when Milan Jurcina crushed a Rangers forward from behind for a boarding penalty. Fortunately Stepan would take a penalty of his own just a handful of seconds later, negating the Rangers man-advantage and supplying a little 3-on-3 pond hockey. Neither team had any legitimate chance to end it. In fact, the Islanders were credited with the only shot on net for both teams during the extra five minutes.

The shootout would go four rounds and Frans Nielsen was selected to draw first blood on his former teammate. Being that Biron was familiar with Nielsen's famous backhand, I expected Nielsen to shoot forehand instead - sure enough, I was right. A quick wrister beat Biron over his right pad to give the Isles the lead. Gaborik would tie it right away before seeing Tavares hit the post and Parenteau getting shut down by Biron. Callahan would miss after Nabokov poked it away and Brad Richards would get stopped by Nabby's right pad. Moulson would score the deciding goal, allowing Nabokov to close it out with one last save on John Mitchell to seal the 4-3 SO win over the New York Rangers. (Photo Credit: kpkelly53/Flickr)

"These guys are the best in the East and they didn't play a bad game but I think we played pretty solid overall," said Parenteau, who was the first star of the game.

"We gave up a two-goal lead but we stuck with it so that's a sign of character. We needed that game tonight I think after the bad week we had with the Senators and Buffalo. That was much needed for everyone to keep believing in the playoff push and I'm really happy with the effort."

As stated above, the Islanders knew what was on the line heading into tonight's match-up. But for Parenteau, he's still able to have fun while at work, especially when it's against his former team.

"It's always fun to chip in, especially against my former team, I'm not going to lie," he added. "Right now I'm focusing on making the playoffs and if I can help like that I'll be pretty happy in the end.

I asked him if the fact that his contract is set to expire in a few months weighs in on his production since he basically is increasing next year's paycheck with every game he plays. 

"I try not think about it to be honest with you," he said. "It's going to take care of itself. I'm just trying to win hockey games here for this hockey team."

And he did an excellent job of doing just that.

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In other news, the New York Islanders have placed Brian Rolston on waivers and have recalled center David Ullstrom from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Casey Cizikas made his NHL debut with the Islanders last night and played 11:03 of the game, including 1:01 of power play time. He did not score any points, had an even rating and two penalty minutes. 

For those wondering, Nino Niederreiter only played 9:17 and only had 15 seconds of power play time. 

Don't forget to check back all day Monday for our extensive trade deadling coverage!

-Rob McGowan

F

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