This is a Big-Game. I mean it. This is a BIG-GAME! Don’t believe me? Ask Isles Head Coach Barry Trotz or any one of his players. They’ll all say the same thing. After a handful of sub-par performances, the Islanders knew things had to be different as they hosted the Rangers Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Speaking of Tuesday night’s game at The Old Barn, the Boys from Long Island came out like GangBusters — at least when playing 5-on-5 — and controlled the opening period enroute to a 6-1 victory over the rival Blueshirts. And it felt good for the Isles to put up a six-spot after scoring only five-goals in their last four games. Of course, much of the credit belonged to the Islanders new line of Anthony Beauvillier-J.G. Pageau-Josh Bailey, who registered a combined nine-points on the evening.
Head Coach Barry Trotz must get some credit for creating this new line and he spoke glowingly of them after the game: “When Bails has the balance between the cerebral and blue-collar game, he gets a lot done. With Pager and Beau, they have some speed and tenacity and intelligence and they were able to capitalize tonight.”
Josh Bailey added to his coach’s sentiment by saying: “They’re all big. Tonight for sure, the Rangers have been playing pretty well, surging and have been climbing up the standings. We wanted to push them down.”
Right off the opening face-off this was a fast-paced, hard hitting affair — no surprise for these two teams — and the Rangers tried to grab the all-important first goal when Mathew Barzal was called for a tripping penalty against Kevin Rooney just 2:43 into the game.
The Rangers’ power-play came into the game hot (4-for-its-last-8) and attempted several looks before succumbing to the Isles’ excellent penalty-kill. Then, it was the Islanders’ turn to take a whirl on the power-play as Ryan Lindgren slashed Barzal on a clear breakaway and somehow ended up with a man-advantage instead of a penalty-shot. (There’s no consistency to the Referees when it comes to calling penalty-shots. This was clearly a textbook situation. I guess they missed that class).
The ensuing Isles power-play wasn’t great — they didn’t score, no surprise — but they did generate several shots on goal and managed to build a sliver of momentum for themselves.
Shortly after the power-play expired, Matt Martin laid a big, clean hit on Jacob Trouba in the corner and the Blueshirts’ defenseman crumbled to the ice. Trouba eventually stood up on his own but needed help to remain on his skates and headed to the Rangers room. (Early in the second period he was officially ruled out for the rest of the game with an upper-body injury). After Martin’s hit, the tone of the game noticeably shifted.
With the Rangers down one of their top defensemen, the Isles continued to push the pace of the game and towards the end of the opening period, with just 2:18 left on the clock, Josh Bailey, who had been having a rough period from a defensive standpoint, put the Islanders on top with his first goal in his last seven-games for the 1-0 lead.
On the play, Anthony Beauvillier controlled the puck inside the Rangers zone before dishing to a streaking J.G. Pageau. Pageau spied Bailey, who had gotten the inside position on Anthony Bitetto. Bailey swiped at the puck and sent it past Igor Shesterkin to cash in on the Islanders’ hard work.
On to the second period and the Islanders bucked their season-long trend of struggling in the middle period by scoring at the 1:38 mark, courtesy of a goal by Brock Nelson.
Kyle Palmieri used his body and skating ability to protect the puck at the point before passing it to Nick Leddy near the left wall. Leddy dangled and passed the puck towards the middle of the ice and Brock Nelson deflected it on goal. The puck knuckled off Shesterkin’s glove arm and into the net for the 2-0 Islanders lead.
A few minutes later, Brendan Smith was called for tripping Kyle Palmieri to send the Nassaumen to their third power-play of the game. The first two Isles power-plays went nowhere, with the first being okay and the second failing to generate even a single shot on a goal.
For context, the Islanders were 3-for-their-last-36 on the power-play and 19-for-116 on the season going into their third man-advantage of the evening. So, clearly they were due.
Lo and behold, Anthony Beauvillier delivered the long-awaited power-play goal when the puck ping-ponged over to him in the right face-off circle and his aim was true on the one-time shot that put the Islanders up 3-0.
The Rangers got one back when Kevin Rooney deflected Brendan Smith’s long wrist-shot past Semyon Varlamov to make it a 3-1 game. All of a sudden the Isles were on their heels and the Blueshirts controlled play for the rest of the period. However, Varlamov did not let the visitors draw any closer as he stood tall with save after save; including a multi-save effort against Brett Howden late in the period during a goalmouth scramble.
The intermission came at a good time for the Boys from Long Island as it allowed them to regroup and they came out for the third period playing better than they had in weeks.
“Through all this adversity, we’re very adjustable. We came out tonight as a brotherhood and when the puck was dropped, we showed what we had,” said Pageau after the game.
From the 7:44 mark of the third, to the 11:22 mark, the Nassaumen tallied three-goals to mushroom their lead from 3-1 to 6-1 and removed any doubt about the outcome of the game.
After the game, Trotz told reporters: “We stayed with it. We got to our game and when we did, we got a lot more done.”
J.G. Pageau struck first with a goal off a one-timer from the slot. Then came Josh Bailey’s second of the evening when the Isles long-time veteran streaked into the slot and one-timed a pass from Anthony Beauvillier past Shesterkin. And finally came the touchdown goal by Jordan Eberle, who finished off a two-on-one odd-man rush with Travis Zajac by whipping out his lethal backhand to shoot the puck past Shesterkin for the final tally of the game.
“Everyone was playing on top of their game, playing for each other, supporting each other. We played the right way,” said Zajac. “I’ve played against this Islanders team for a long time and when they get the lead, they get stronger.”
After Eberle’s goal it was just a matter of getting out of dodge without any incidents, which the Islanders did. And courtesy of the Capitals being idle, the Isles used the 6-1 win to move back into a tie for first-place in the MassMutual Division; just in time for a three-game set with the Capitals that starts Thursday night in Uniondale.
The Isles went 1-for-3 on the power-play to bring their season tally to 20-for-117…Josh Bailey returned after missing two-games with an injury and scored two-goals…Noah Dobson was re-inserted into the lineup after being a healthy scratch…Cal Clutterbuck was a healthy scratch…Brayden Coburn came back out…Oliver Wahlstrom took a seat…Brock Nelson played his 594th career game with the Isles to tie John Tonelli for 18th on the franchise list…Matt Martin played his 606th career game with the Isles to tie Frans Nielsen for 14th on the franchise list…Josh Bailey’s first period goal was his first in seven-games…Beauvillier’s second-period power-play goal was his first goal in his last eight-games and his first point in his last seven…The line of Anthony Beauvillier-J.G. Pageau-Josh Bailey combined for nine-points (4G, 5A).
Thursday April 22nd Islanders vs Capitals at Nassau Coliseum at 7pm(EST).