Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Surging Isles snap Rangers' win streak
By Katie Strang
NEW YORK -- Polar vortex be damned, the Islanders are heating up.
With their 10th win in the past 13 games, the plucky Islanders rallied from a 2-0 deficit to knock off the New York Rangers 5-3 at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, snapping the Rangers' three-game winning streak in the first of three meetings between the two clubs over the next 12 days.
Thomas Vanek scored the game-winning goal with 4:38 left in the third period.
With the come-from-behind victory, the Islanders have now won nine of their past 11 road games.
The team's top line of Thomas Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo had what Rangers coach Alain Vigneault described as "quite an evening," combining for seven points among them.
Tavares and Vanek connected late in the third for what stood up as the game winner, executing a beautiful power-play goal to take a 4-3 lead at 4:38 after the Rangers were whistled for a too-many-men bench minor.
Tavares finished the night with a team-leading three assists.
"The whole game didn't feel totally right," said alternate captain Brad Richards.
Indeed, even when the Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the first compliments of Rick Nash's second straight multigoal game (and third in the course of a nine-game span), it never really felt like they had control of the game. The Islanders looked and played desperate, buzzing from the beginning, controlling the puck, and generating chances on Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot, who started in place of Henrik Lundqvist (flu).
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When the Islanders cut the lead in half on Matt Martin's goal with 2:38 remaining in the first period, there was the sense that the game was going to take a turn.
"They were hungry," Nash said. "They played a good road game."
In contrast, the Rangers did not show that same level of intensity. Instead, they seemed to surrender some of the confidence and moxie they have shown of late.
"I think we were a little flat, especially at the start of the first period," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "We couldn't find our jump."
Though the Rangers had built a 3-1 lead following Chris Kreider's power-play marker in the second period -- the speedy winger finished the night with three points -- the Islanders just kept battling.
The Rangers struggled in their own end through stretches, allowing the Isles to capitalize and tie the game in the second period. A pretty passing sequence led to Thomas Hickey's third goal of the season at 13:22 of the second period and Colin McDonald buried a rebound to knot the score at 3 with 3:24 remaining in the middle frame.
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"They were coming at us hard," said Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. "You have to give them credit, they were coming."
Though the Islanders remain in last place in the Metropolitan Division, they sit only five points back of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. That enough is fuel for the Islanders, who made their first playoff appearance in six years last spring, to keep fighting for a postseason berth.
Is the belief still alive in the room?
"Absolutely," McDonald told ESPNNewYork.com Tuesday morning before the game. "Especially because of last year, making that push."
Meanwhile, the Rangers came down to earth after a fine week in which they downed the Red Wings, Senators and Capitals.
They let up on the gas Tuesday night and they were saddled with a loss as a result.
"We wanted to keep that streak going," Stralman said. "We didn't put forth a good enough effort to continue it."