A touching tribute to the victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, and a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Betsy Wolfe, was as good as things would get tonight for the Rangers. Entering tonight’s contest, the Blueshirts were looking for their first win at the Barclays Center in franchise history, but they wouldn’t get it. Following tonight’s tilt the Rangers possess an impressive 0-5 record in Brooklyn; however, their struggles against the Islanders aren’t limited to the Barclays Center. Ever since their dominant stretch against the Islanders in the John Tortorella era, the Rangers have struggled, losing 10 of their last 11 games against their New York rivals
After an early tripping penalty against Brady Skjei, Josh Bailey notched a power-play goal, beating Henrik Lundqvist’s glove with a beautiful wrist-shot, giving the Isles a 1-0 lead. Bailey, a pending free agent, keeps adding to his already impressive numbers, as he now has 62 points in only 55 games. Bailey’s goal was scored just 4:53 into the game, marking the third straight in which the Rangers have surrendered a tally within the first 5 minutes.
Still trailing by only one in the second period, Jordan Eberle recorded his 20th goal of the season of the season, with just under five minutes left in the frame. Cody McLeod’s lack of skill was exposed on this one, as he turned the puck over, failing to advance the play into the Islanders zone. After a takeaway by Islanders rookie sensation Matt Barzal, he saucered it over to Nick Leddy, who then sent a perfect cross-crease pass to Eberle who snapped it into a gaping net, as Henrik Lundqvist had no chance on this one. The Rangers only trailed by two tallies with 2o minutes to go, yet it seemed that Eberle’s goal would be the dagger to the Rangers’ hearts.
— NHL (@NHL) February 16, 2018
In the third period, the Rangers continued to put forth a spirited effort, but didn’t have enough fire-power to rally back from their two-goal deficit. The Blueshirts came close again, but couldn’t quite get the job done. With 16 minutes remaining, Islanders Defenseman Thomas Hickey received a fortuitous deflection off David Desharnais’ skate, on a sharp-angled-shot that trickled through Henrik Lundqvist’s five-hole, and into the back of the net. With tonight’s goal, only his third of the season, Hickey recorded the 100th point of his NHL career. Also gaining a point was Calder-trophy-favorite, Matt Barzal, who secured his third assist of the night on Hickey’s goal, and surpassed the 60 point-plateau in only the 58th game of his rookie campaign. Moreover, this was Barzal’s 8th point in his last 2 games against the Blueshirts. This one sealed the deal for the Islanders, and Rangers’ fans far-fetched hopes of their Blueshirts earning a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, dwindled even further.
The score would hold up in this game, as the Islanders shutout the Rangers by a score of 3-0. This was the first shutout of the season for the Islanders as a team, therefore it was also Halak’s first of the year. Tonight wasn’t a night off for Jaroslav Halak, as the Rangers peppered him with a season-high 50 shots, yet somehow couldn’t find twine on any of them, while facing-off against the squad that leads the NHL in goals against. With tonight’s stymying of the Blueshirts, Halak improved his already stellar record against the Rangers, as he now boasts a 8-1 record in his last 9 games against the boys in the blue.
The only positives out of tonight’s loss, was the continued strong play of the Rangers young defensemen. John Gilmour, Neal Pionk, and Tony DeAngelo have relinquished their opportunities with the Rangers. Because of all of their recent injuries, the undermanned Blueshirts have gotten a great chance to explore what they have in their young defensive prospects in Hartford. All three have proved their worth, and continue to show that they have the potential to develop into solid NHL players. Additionally, in order to qualify for the playoffs, the Rangers would have to win somewhere around 18 games out of their final 24. If they begin to falter even further and fall out playoff contention, fans may get a look at top-prospects Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil in the Broadway Blue.
Tonight was another contest that ended in disappointment for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist gave them a chance and kept them in it all game, but they were unable to solve Jaroslav Halak. The only people more excited than Islanders fans about the Isles’ departure from Brooklyn, are Rangers fans, as the Islanders will return to Nassau Coliseum; a building in which the Rangers have fared much better. The Blueshirts will get a chance to capture their first win at the Barclays Center in the final matchup between these two teams, which will take place on April 5th.
The Rangers will be back in action on Saturday when they will travel to Ottawa to battle the slumping Senators (2:00 PM, MSG)
Brian Paget is on Twitter @BrianPaget17