With Playoff Hopes Dwindling, the Isles Lose Another Heartbreaker
New York, NY- After suffering a heartbreaking loss Saturday night at the Coliseum the Islanders entered the Garden last with their hopes of making the playoffs almost in shreds. Although the playoffs are looking almost out of reach, a win last night, against the Rangers, could have spun the Islanders' momentum back in their favor and kept them within nine points of the final seed. (Photo Credit: AP/Kathy Kmonicek)
The game started off as what seemed would be a defensive battle, the teams combined for three shots in the first five minutes of play. The Rangers would eventually go on to out shoot the Islanders 11-5 in the period but that would not reflect on the scoreboard. Just 2:!4 into the game the Ranger-Islander rivalry lived up to its hype as the Rangers' Stu Bickel and the Islanders' Michael Haley squared off at center ice and had a go. It was a good bout with both player getting in some pretty heavy punches, Bickel took control of the fight early but seemed to take more of beating by the end. The Islanders would strike first taking the lead 11:15 into the game. With a bit of nice passing and hard work P. A. Parenteau would eventually get a shot on Henrik Lundqvist and the rebound bounced right to John Tavares who buried it for his 28th of the year. The secondary assist was given to Travis Hamonic who started the play by springing Tavares out of the defensive zone. Just over seven minutes later the Rangers would rally back and tie the game when Brad Richards buried his 20th of the year on the power play. The period ended tied, but the Rangers definitely seemed to have the edge throughout the first twenty minutes. (Photo Credit: AP/Kathy Kmonicek)
The 1-1 tie stood until 7:44 into the second period when once again the Islanders would take the lead. This time it came in the form of a power play goal from Matt Moulson. Mouslon took the rebound from a freak bounce off of the glass and beat the unexpecting Lundqvist, the assists were awarded to Streit for his shot off the glass and Travis Harmonic earned his second of the game. Moulson's 29th of the season gave the Islanders a one goal lead but it was once again the Rangers who were swarming. The Rangers out shot the Islanders once again this time it was 13-7. At 16:03 of the second period Brad Richards tallied his second power play goal of the game and once again he eliminated the Islanders lead. The tie did not last long however, as Andrew MacDonald beat Lundqvist, for only his fifth goal of the year, with 36 seconds remaining in the middle stanza. The go-ahead goal was set up by Tavares and Milan Jurcina.
The third Islanders lead lasted all of four minutes and five seconds, Brian Boyle tipped in a Ryan McDonagh shot from the point to tie the game 3:29 into the third period. The rest of regulation came down to Lundvist vs. Nabokov, Nabokov carried the heavier load. Stopping nine of ten shots, while Lundqvist faced only six and stopped them all. Through regulation Nabokov stopped 31 of the Rangers' 34 shots and Lundqvist stopped 15 of the Islander's 18. Evgeni Nabokov did everything in his power to keep the Islanders in this game and give them the opportunity to earn the two points. He kept the Rangers' from winning the game and brought his team into overtime.
2:04 into the overtime period the Islanders had an outstanding chance to win the game when Michael Grabner slid a beautiful pass to a wide open Frans Nielsen for a one timer from the high slot, Lundqvist was just able to get across his crease and grab the puck saving not just the shot but the game. Under a minute later Travis Hamonic was called for a questionable hook and the Rangers took to the power play with 2:04 left in the extra period. With six seconds to go in the period and two seconds left on the power play Marian Gaborik beat Nabokov from the high slot to win the game for the Rangers. At the end of the game Travis Hamonic was given a 10 minute misconduct penalty for his reaction to the penalty and the goal while leaving the penalty box. A sign of the frustration the Islanders must have felt after blowing back to back leads.
Once again the Islanders were unable to hold on to a lead as they would only earn one of the four possible points over the weekend. Last night's game was even harder to swallow as not only did they blow one lead, but three leads throughout the course of the game. In order to be a playoff caliber team the Islanders need to find ways to win games, instead they are finding ways to lose them. Secondary scoring and tighter defense are a must for this team and right now they just do not have either.
Ten points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with thirteen games to go is not an impossible task for the Islanders. However it is just that, a task, they have to find some emotion and some grit and the wins will come. I will not give up hope yet but I will say that the chances of a playoff appearance do not look to promising.
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