The Rangers and Islanders will meet for the third time in a nine-day span with the Rangers looking for a sweep heading into the all-star break (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
The Blueshirts defeated the Islanders 6-2 and 3-2 during the first two meetings. Since the last meeting on January 16th, the Rangers played one game and were defeated by the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1. Similar to the January 16th game when the Rangers won the game with under a minute left, the Blue Jackets flipped the script and found a winning goal with under a minute in regulation.
“It sucks. It’s the worst way to lose a game,” said Brendan Lemieux who returned to action after missing the previous nine games with a fractured hand. “You get nothing out of it. It’s massive for us. You’ve got to play all 60 [minutes]. We played [bleeping] 59 and a half – excuse my language.”
“Pretty much got what we deserved….To give up a 3-on-2 with 28 seconds to go is just inexcusable,” said head coach David Quinn.
Igor Shesterkin made his third career start and made 29 saves. This loss was Shesterkin’s first career NHL defeat.
“I could have played better,” Shesterkin said. “We should have won today. … I’m really disappointed, but we need to move forward.”
“Just disappointing, but we’ve got to move past it and get ready for Tuesday,” Quinn said.
On Tuesday, the Rangers will see the Islanders for round three. Lemieux who missed the first two meetings, will be in the lineup and will provide the Rangers with some much-needed toughness and skill. In the first meeting, there were two fights and tempers are bound to flare again.
On the other hand, the Islanders played two games since the last meeting and lost both to the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes which puts them on a three-game losing streak. Josh Bailey left their last game in the second period due to illness and his status is uncertain heading into Tuesday night.
With Thomas Greiss starting the last game, the Rangers will likely see Semyon Varlamov for the third time in nine days. The Blueshirts have managed nine goals in two games against the Russian netminder.
Alex Georgiev will get the start against the Islanders for the third time in nine days. Georgiev has been brilliant in the first two meetings and allowed just two goals in each game. Georgiev has won all four starts against the Islanders in his career and holds a .961 save percentage in those meetings.
The Rangers lines are in question following the defeat to the Blue Jackets. Quinn suggested Pavel Buchnevich may be removed from the top line following a poor performance. In the third period, Brendan Lemieux took Buchnevich’s spot on the fourth line.
This will be the final game the Rangers play until after the all-star break. Artemi Panarin will represent the Rangers in the all-star game. Panarin currently has 68 points which ranks fifth for the NHL in point scoring. For other Rangers, it will be some much-needed time off. The Blueshirts entered the season with a lot of rookies who were not use to the grind of an 82-game season. One of whom is Kaapo Kakko who will return to his home country of Finland for the first time since the summer. Kakko hasn’t seen his parents since they saw his NHL debut in October and this will provide the 18-year-old with a chance to be in his comfort zone.
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