As the spring weather emerged throughout the New York City area, Atlantic Division rivalry teams matched up on both sides of the Hudson River on Sunday night. With the Philadelphia Flyers stopping in Newark, New Jersey to faceoff against the Devils, the New York Rangers hosted the Islanders in Madison Square Garden.
No other rivalry in the Atlantic Division is greater than the three New York City area teams battling it out on the ice for two points. As David Clarkson of the New Jersey Devils explained, there are no other greater rivalries than playing against the Rangers.
The Rangers are sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference race, while the Islanders sit last in the Atlantic Division, and 14th in the Conference. But like any New York area team, there are always scores to settle out on the ice.
With just 2:24 into the first period, Ranger Stu Bickel and Islander Michael Haley dropped the gloves. They were broken up a few minutes later as the brawl seemed to be going nowhere as they fumbled to properly square off with each other.
At 11:15, John Tavares sent a pass across to P.A. Parenteau. Parenteau’s shot was blocked by Henrik Lundqvist, only to be rebounded back in by Tavares. The officials had to have another look at the goal only for it to be given the thumbs up to give the Islanders their 1-0 start of the game.
With a couple of power play opportunities thanks to a couple of hooking calls on the Islanders, it was Brad Richards who was finally able to get the Rangers on the scoreboard at 18:47 with Anton Stralman and Lundqvist assisting on the power play goal. This was Lundqvist’s first assist of the season.
In the middle stanza, with Derek Stepan receiving a double-minor for high-sticking Parenteau at 3:57, Matt Moulson was finally able to break the tie at 7:44 with a power play goal. At 15:01, Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov high-sticked Mike Rupp. Rupp was furious, but at least it awarded the Rangers with a power play which led to another power play goal from Richards at 16:03 to tie up the game again.
“I felt progress,” Richards said of the way he has been playing. “It’s the only thing I can really tell you. The production sometimes doesn’t come, but I just feel better seeing the ice. You’ve just got to stay with it. Sometimes you think you’re getting better, and trust it. Tonight, some things happened for me that I got rewarded. Obviously, that gets your confidence up, gets your legs moving more.”
Andrew MacDonald scored another goal at 19:24 to give the Islanders a 3-2 lead as they headed into the final period. But drama ensued at the end of the period when Brandon Prust was called for slashing, while Nabokov was called for roughing. Yes, this goaltender decided to take a few swings at Prust with his blocker behind the net, taking the Rangers’ winger by surprise.
Both teams commenced the final period with a 4-on-4. At 3:29 Brian Boyle tied up the game with a re-direct from Ryan McDonagh. With no game-winner in sight as the buzzer sounded to end the period, they headed into overtime.
At 2:58 into overtime, the Rangers got a very lucky break when Travis Hamonic was called for tripping. With just 5.8 seconds remaining in overtime, Marian Gaborik tallied the game-winner to give the Rangers a 4-3 victory over the Islanders.
Even though the Rangers are in the top spot in the East, winning doesn’t always come so easily, no matter where the other team sits in the Conference. The Rangers spoke after the game about how the Islanders were a very difficult team to beat.
Did Lundqvist have an off night? Not according to him.
“I don’t think I played that bad,” Lundqvist said after the game. “The puck just bounced the wrong way…I think my game is right there. The only difference between a stop and a couple of goal games is very small.”
The Broadway Hat was rewarded to Richards for his two power play goals.
The Rangers will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Sunday marked the beginning of a seven-game home stretch for the Rangers.