Thursday (12/2) night featured several buzz-worthy match-ups in the sporting world; fans in places like Ottawa and Cleveland had circled the date months in advance to see former players return. The Islanders perhaps had anticipated the evening too, as a visit by the hated New York Rangers normally provides excitement on par with anything the three other major leagues can provide. Local fans, though, seemed to have a differing opinion as the game failed to sell out. Though the game was action-packed, nobody mistook it for great hockey. In the end, the Rangers slipped out of the building with two points, and the Isles slipped a bit further down the standings.
The Rangers blew out to an early two goal lead as Erik Christensen and Ryan Callahan put the puck past goalie Rick DiPietro. DiPietro, who had made it clear earlier in the day that he enjoys beating his team's archrivals, didn't get much help from his teammates in the first period. Most of the play was in the Islanders' defensive zone, and providing a team so many chances will kill you every time. That proved to be the case here too, though Zenon Konopka got a trickling puck past Marty Biron in the last minute of play to cut the Ranger lead in half.
Just as heavyweights Trevor Gillies and Derek Boogaard traded blows earlier, so too would their teams for the rest of the game. The Isles stung the Rangers with consecutive goals in the middle period, taking a 3-2 lead. Matt Moulson banked his 9th goal of the year, while Rob Schremp contributed his 3rd.
The Rangers weren't stunned for long, as they recovered and recaptured the lead thanks to Slovak star Marian Gaborik, after Brandon Prust had previously tied it.
"He's just a good player," DiPietro said of Gaborik later on. "You get opportunities like that...a guy's going to take advantage of it."
Gaborik certainly took advantage of his opportunities on this night, widening the Rangers' lead to 5-3 as the third period opened. Goals from Michael Grabner and Blake Comeau added to the craziness of the affair as the game was again tied, this time at 5 goals apiece.
Unfortunately while the details of the tying goal were still coming over the public address system, Gaborik scored again and hats came flying onto the ice surface. It was his 8th tally of the year, and Sean Avery's third assist of the night. The Islanders had about five and a half minutes to mount another comeback, but could not. 6-5 was the final, with Gaborik and Avery earning the game's first and second stars respectively.
Turnovers were key, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano mentioned after the loss. "Both teams had opportunities. When it was 5-5 I felt pretty good about our chances," he added.
The Isles will have another shot at the Rangers, and they won't have to wait more than 24 hours. The two teams meet on Madison Square Garden ice on Friday (12/3) for the completion of the home-and-home series.
News and Notes:
- Travis Hamonic recorded his first NHL point in the game.
- Matt Martin and Mike Sauer fought after Gillies/Boogaard had set the tone earlier.
- Capuano announced that Dwayne Roloson will be Friday night's starting goalie.
- The Isles have taken only 5 of their last 32 possible points, and 15 over the entire season (5-13-5).
- 13,742 paid to see the game.