Perhaps it was fitting a Ranger whose role is encoded in the sport’s DNA took center stage on a night that harkened back to the romantic notion of the game’s traditional roots.
Daniel Carcillo’s goal 4:36 into the third period was the game winner in the Rangers’ 2-1 win over the Islanders Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
The Rangers improved to 29-23-3 following back-to-back Stadium Series wins over the Devils and Islanders. The Islanders have lost four in a row and fell to 21-27-8. The Rangers are now 3-0-0 in outdoor games.
“We’ve been a lot more consistent,” Henrik Lundqvist said of a Rangers squad that is 9-3-1 since acquiring Carcillo from Los Angeles on Jan. 4.
“He brings energy,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said of Carcillo. “He brings bite to that line. That line can give us — with [Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore] — some greasy offensive shifts. We’re spending a little bit of time in the other end and it’s probably why we’re winning more games in the last little while.”
Carcillo snapped a 1-1 deadlock with a wrister from the slot to conclude a shift in which the Rangers’ fourth line used their speed to attack the Isles’ third line. Carcillo’s goal was his second with the Rangers. His first came in a 4-1 win over the Flyers at the Garden on Jan. 12.
“Different guys have to step up on different nights so that your team has success,” Vigneault said. “Tonight Carcillo stepped up in an important time and that’s why we won.”
Winning has been something the Islanders have not done of late. Following the loss, the Islanders have dropped four in a row and fell to 21-27-8.
“I look at the foundation of the way we play,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. “I think we play well. We’re not getting the results right now and mentally it’s how you handle that. I thought we played [well] enough to get the win.”
Unlike the Rangers’ 7-3 win over the Devils Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, which resembled pond hockey, structure was evident in last night’s game.
Both teams played a cautious opening period, opting to chip pucks into the offensive zone instead of carrying the puck in and creating offensive opportunities.
For two organizations that have subscribed to an attack mentality, the first 20 minutes were an ode to safe hockey.
“I think you saw some good structure from both teams,” Capuano said. “Chances were limited and it was from both sides.”
But as the game progressed, the teams began to loosen up, and as a result both Lundqvist (30 saves) and Evgeni Nabokov (32 saves) had to be stalwarts in net. Lundqvist made 14 saves in the second, while Nabokov stopped 13 shots.
As strong as the netminders were, they were eventually solved late in the second.
Brock Nelson opened the scoring with 1:29 left in the second on a slap shot from the right circle that Lundqvist did not have a chance to stop. Benoit Pouliot drew the Rangers even 40 seconds after Nelson’s marker, and the teams went into the second intermission tied at 1-1, setting the stage for Carcillo’s game winner.
But there were strong supporting actors in the Rangers’ penalty kill unit that helped keep the game even over the opening 40 minutes. The Rangers killed all four Islanders power plays last night and have killed 136 of 163 power plays against this season.
“Well, penalty killing starts with great goaltending,” Vigneault said. “We’ve gotten some good goaltending lately. That, combined with [assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, who] has been working really hard with the personnel we’ve used on there. Our structure is good. Our guys are willing to get in lanes, take passing lanes away and block the shots that need to be blocked. When you do that, you have a good opportunity to be one of the good penalty killing teams in the league.”
The teams have split the first four games of the season series. They will meet for the final time in the regular season Friday night at the Garden.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.