Finally–after seven consecutive losses in Brooklyn–the Blueshirts defeated the Islanders for the first time at the Barclays center. The game was the latter tilt of the home-and-home between the two teams. The Isles took the first matchup Thursday at Madison Square Garden. It also marked the final meeting between the Big Apple rivals this season, with each team winning two games. Saturday’s victory was an important one for the Rangers, who had yet to win in 2019. The Rangers had been 0-5-0 since the start of January, but Mats Zuccarello’s well-placed skate sent the Rangers happily back to Manhattan. Zuccarello scored late in the third period, redirecting a shot from the point to lift the Rangers over the Islanders 2-1. Filip Chytil also scored in the second and Alexander Georgiev was fantastic in a 24 save performance to help the Rangers win in Brooklyn for the first time since their inter-city rivals began playing home games there in 2015.
Marc Staal said, “It was nice to see that goal go in during the third and us able to hang on and get a win.” Coach David Quinn also gave the Blueshirt faithful in the crowd credit for the win. “We battled. We were determined to get a win here finally,” Mika Zibanejad said. “I thought we played right from minute one. Just battled hard on the PK, on the power play, 5-on-5. It was a really good win and I’m happy.”
The opening frame basically summed up the game; hard fought and back and forth play for twenty straight minutes. Tensions were high early as the Islanders ringed a shot off the post on the first shot, their first of four to come in the matchup. The Ranger’s also got somewhat lucky as they were able to kill off three penalties in the period and Georgiev shut down the Islanders to keep the score tied at one. In the waning moments of the period, Islanders’ Josh Bailey had a wide open net on his backhand but somehow shot the puck wide. On the other end, Jesper Fast had a similar opportunity off a centering feed, but his shot hit the end boards.
The second period was penalty infested with both teams getting 5 on 3 power plays although neither squad could convert. 8:40 in though, Anthony Beauvillier scored for the Islanders to break the ice. The goal came moments after the Islanders’ Nick Leddy hit the post with a backhand. This would be the Isles’ only goal and head coach Barry Trotz was upset after the game. “I thought our game was way better than it was last game,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We weren’t able to capitalize on some of our chances. We had a big 5-on-3 kill for and we sort of gave it right back to them. We got the lead we just couldn’t put them away.” Shortly after, Filip Chytil evened it at 14:09 after an Islanders turnover in the neutral zone. The goal was Chytil’s seventh of the season and came just after the Islanders had managed to kill a five-on-three advantage for the Rangers.
The last frame was not controlled by the Rangers or Islanders, but rather the Rangers fans. The Islanders broadcast even mentioned that the Rangers fans brought an electricity to the game with more people in the stands. In regards to the game itself, the Islanders did almost nothing to pressure Georgiev as the Rangers’ blue line was fantastic. The Blueshirts were down to five defenseman because Fredrik Claesson went to the locker room with a suspected separated shoulder. Just prior to pulling their goalie, the Islanders had to change their plans due to forward Valtteri Filppula committing a penalty with just over two minutes left. With twenty seconds remaining in the period, the Isles almost tied the game off an Anders Lee redirect, but Georgiev made a ridiculous glove save.
The Blueshirts will have little time to celebrate the win as they head to Columbus tomorrow night to face John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets. I would also like to recognize and thank Rick Nash for all he did in the NHL and during his tenure with the Rangers. The 6 time all star retired on Thursday and will be dropping the puck Saturday night.