Rangers 6, Islanders 3
The game had been long decided when the mocking, sneering chant rolled from the ostensibly blue seats down to the ice.
“Sea-son’s-oh-vah,” 18,200 mostly blue-clad denizens derisively sang towards their hated suburban rival with 2:10 left in the Rangers’ 6-3 rout of the Islanders last night at the Garden. The win coupled with Buffalo’s 1-0 home loss to Carolina means the Rangers are seventh in the East with 78 points. The Rangers improved to 4-1 against the Islanders this season. The two teams will complete the season series March 31 at the Coliseum.
What transpired last night was a 55-minute demolition of a team that is not in the same weight class as the Rangers. The Rangers had 47 shots on goal. Thirteen Rangers recorded at least one point. Eleven Rangers had an assist. Seven players were plus-one or better. Marian Gaborik sniped two goals and has 20 on the season. Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves.
The only drawback that John Tortorella pointed to was Matt Moulson’s and P.A. Parenteau’s goals in a 2:29 span early in the second equalized the match at 2-2. John Tavares added his 26th of the season with 4:03 left in the third. The line scored all three Islanders’ goals, while combining for five assists, eight points and were plus-two.
“I thought we played better as we went on,” a subdued Tortorella said. “We won a big game. That was a hard game to play. We found a way to win.”
Special teams was vital. The Rangers scored three times in five power play opportunities and Brandon Prust opened the scoring 3:47 into the match with the Rangers’ 11th short-handed goal of the season. Only Philadelphia, with 12, have scored more goals while on the penalty kill. Prust jabbed a Ryan McDonagh rebound past Al Montoya (31 saves).
“We’re playing so many games that we don’t have to practice it,” Erik Christensen deadpanned when asked about the National Hockey League’s 19th ranked power play, before growing serious. “It’s all about making the right decision with the puck, and when you get a chance to shoot it, shoot it.” Christensen ripped a power play snap shot past Montoya with 5:08 remaining in the first to increase the Rangers’ lead to 2-0. He added an assist on Gaborik’s second goal of the game and finished with two points.
Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Bryan McCabe ended any thought that the Islanders could win the game with back-to-back-to-back goals in a 7:40 span of the second period. Callahan’s 21st of the year broke the 2-2 tie. Gaborik hammered a power play drive over Montoya’s shoulder after McCabe broke up a Michael Grabner short-handed breakaway attempt. The veteran defenseman then sprung Gaborik with a home run pass.
“It was a one-on-one. I was just trying to get the puck off the guy,” McCabe said of his defensive play. His 5-on-3 power play snapper with 49 seconds left in the second increased the advantage to 5-2. It was also his first as a Ranger. “It was nice to get one here, at home, contribute that way and get a big win.”
For the team, in a big-picture point of view, it was equally important that Gaborik scored goals. He has struggled in his second season on Broadway, and has been the recipient of pointed criticism from Tortorella.
“It’s always nice to score,” Gaborik said. He has six goals and nine points in the five games against the Islanders this season. Added Tortorella, “He has the Islanders’ number, that’s for sure. I just hope he gains confidence and realizes that moving his legs makes him an effective player.”
What went right …
1 Power surge — The Garden faithful were loaded with anxiousness and irritation. The Isles had scored twice in a 2:29 span early in the second to tie the game. By period’s end, MSG was a cauldron of noise celebrating goals by Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Bryan McCabe in a 7:40 span that put the Rangers up 5-2. They finished 3-for-5 on the power play.
2 Miller time — John Tortorella has spent a great deal of time expressing his desire that Gaborik use his speed. The Rangers sniper did just that last night and was the most noticeable player on the ice. Gaborik, who has been slowed by injuries, finished with seven shots on goal and scored twice.
3 Slipping —Brandon Prust’s fifth short-handed goal of the season gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 3:47 into the game. The SHG was the Rangers’ 11th on the year; second-most in the NHL.