October 15, 2014

Isles Defeat Rangers 6-3 in First Meeting of Rivals

The Islanders were nowhere near the best team on the ice on Tuesday night when they played the New York Rangers at MSG, but they were the better team in the only period where that mattered. It helped of course that the Islanders got great goaltending out of Jaroslav Halak that kept them in the game, allowing them to tie late in the second and score four in the 3rd to give the Isles the 6-3 victory.

Halak's outing wasn't without a few blemishes, like the first goal of the game that opened the scoring for Rick Nash. But if you are willing to let the good outweigh the bad - as one should in this game, given the outcome - you can just chalk that up as one of those goals that just "happens."

It was a rather unsurprising goal given what the Rangers were doing early in the game, where they controlled a considerable amount of the play which didn't allow the Isles many chances of their own or give them the opportunity to change lines in the manner they wanted to.

Johnny Boychuk would get the Isles back on track with - what else, a powerplay goal. It may even get to the point where we can start calling those "patented." He continued to show off a low, hard and accurate point shot that gets through every time he winds up, and this shot just flew past the inside of the post. And it wasn't even a full-on slap shot.

A defining moment in the game for Halak was the excellent PK in the middle of the 2nd period. Griffin Reinhart took a bad penalty after a second mistake. His first mistake cost the Islanders a goal when his failed clearing attempt ended up back in control of the Rangers and (2nd time in the period he made mistake).

The hot play from the goalie didn't immediately give the Isles the kick they needed, as they struggled on a powerplay opportunity and spent most of the two minutes chasing the puck in their end. A bad pass by Casey Cizikas to Reinahrt went the other way and if Kevin Hayes hit the net the game would have been wide open for the Rangers.

So the Isles bent but didn't break, and a great shift by Nikolay Kulemin created a tying goal for John Tavares. Kulemin was relentless on the forecheck, demonstrating what he's always been capable of in forcing Mike Kostka to make a bad play.

From that point on the Islanders took over and had the Rangers on their heels, bringing back bad memories from Sunday night for them when they had a similar meltdown against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Another bad play by Kostka gift wrapped Kyle Okposo's 100th career goal. The line of Mikhail Grabovski, Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson generated the next two goals thanks to solid forechecks and getting pucks in deep to go to battle on the boards.

To cap off the scoring, the Isles continued their great board work despite the three goal lead and kept their legs moving, creating the scoring chance that let Nick Leddy get his first goal as a member of the team.

This was a game where the Isles showed a lot of character, and battled through some of their struggles. They likely couldn't have done this without the help of Halak, and he gave them all they needed in order to eventually return the favor.

Improving to 3-0 on the season is huge as the Isles prepare to play some other difficult teams over the next couple of days. Next up are the San Jose Sharks, who are also undefeated on the young season and look like they are fired up after the disappointment of last year. A win would go a long way in ensuring that this isn't just another typical Isles fast start as we've gotten used to the last few seasons.

- Chris

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