STOP THE PRESSES!
Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, the Islanders finally found some answers as they stopped their worrisome skid and beat the Rangers 4-0 thanks to key contributions up-and-down the lineup, including a shutout performance by Semyon Varlamov.
The Isles and Rangers entered this game headed in opposite directions as the Nassaumen were plummeting in the standings and the Blueshirts were playing inspired hockey. The gap in the standings that once was double-digits in size, had shrunk to just five-points. And between this game and their upcoming game on Saturday, there was every chance the Isles could see the lead shrink even further. However, that all changed in the first period.
Both teams traded icings in the opening couple of shifts due to errant passes, thus beginning a trend that would last all period.
Jordan Eberle made the first key contribution for the Boys from Long Island as he hustled to get back on a Rangers 2-on-1 odd-man rush to prevent an early scoring chance by the Isles’ foes. That hustle was on display for several Islanders during the period as Nick Leddy would later hustle back to pick the pocket of Ryan Strome to also prevent a quality scoring chance.
Artemi Panarin was then called for tripping Noah Dobson, however, the Nassaumen couldn’t convert; which has been a season-long problem on the man-advantage. Or rather, it was a problem, until later in the period, but we’ll get to that.
Moments after the Isles power-play expired, Anthony Beauvillier got off two quality chances against Igor Shesterkin, but the young Russian goalie turned aside both shots. However, it was a calming sight for the Islanders to see Beauvillier turn it up a notch; which he always seems to do against the Rangers.
Shortly thereafter, the Boys from Long Island finally cashed in on the momentum they’d been building as “Uncle Leo” (Leo Komarov) scored his first of the year off a beautiful feed from Eberle to net the Isles their first lead of the night and their first five-on-five goal in four-games time. 1-0 Islanders at the 6:27 mark of the first period.
Less than six-minutes later, Pavel Buchnevich was called for tripping Mathew Barzal and no he didn’t take a dive, to send the Islanders back to the power-play. And this time, it wasn’t a problem for the visitors.
The first-half of the power-play featured far too many passes, but, eventually, Oliver Wahlstom was able to net his first goal in his last 11-games played on a wicked shot from the slot to put the Islanders up 2-0 12:39 into the game.
The Boys from Long Island continued to push the pace of the game in the second-half of the first period but were unable to score. Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, Semyon Varlamov, who only faced seven shots in the period, had to make a couple tough saves, including one on Kevin Rooney from point-blank range to maintain the Isles two-goal lead as the teams headed into the first intermission.
Another season-long trend for the Islanders, having troublesome second periods, was negated early in the middle period as Anthony Beauvillier scored 1:03 into the period off a feed from Scott Mayfield to make it 3-0 Islanders.
This being a Rangers-Islanders game, you knew it was just a matter of time before some extracurriculars happened and it was just moments after Beauvillier’s goal that things got underway; granted they were far tamer than they have been in years past.
That was about all the important action that took place in the middle period as Semyon Varlamov held the Rangers in check to carry the Isles 3-0 lead into the third period.
There wasn’t much to write home about in the third period as the Isles essentially sat on their lead.
Mathew Barzal provided some brief fireworks late in the period when he boarded Brendan Smith on a late hit from behind, but the Nassaumen killed off the penalty and after coming out of the box, Barzal scored an empty net goal — the Rangers had pulled Shesterkin for the extra attacker in a desperation play with over five-minutes to go — to provide the final 4-0 tally.
After Barzal’s goal the only question was whether Varlamov would get his record-tying third shutout of the season against the Rangers at MSG. A few moments later we had the answer and it was a resounding, yes. For the Isles, this was their most complete game in weeks and the two-points were crucial to stop their slide down the standings.
Now we wait for Saturday night when these teams will do it all over again; at which time, a regulation Islanders win will clinch the Boys from Long Island a playoff berth.
The Isles went 1-for-2 on the power-play to bring their season tally to 23-for-126…The Isles went 2-for-2 on the penalty-kill…Noah Dobson tagged back in for Braydon Coburn…Travis Zajac took a seat as Leo Komarov tagged in…Oliver Wahlstrom’s first period power-play goal was his first goal in his last 11-games played…Leo Komarov’s first period goal was his first of the year…Semyon Varlamov’s shutout was his third at MSG against the Rangers this season, making him only the second goalie in the NHL’s Expansion Era to blank the Blueshirts three times at MSG in a single year. Dominik Hasek is the other…Mathew Barzal’s third period empty net goal was his first goal in 13-games…Varlamov’s shutout was also his sixth of the season, a career-high and it also leads the NHL.
Saturday May 1st Islanders vs Rangers at Nassau Coliseum at 7pm(EST).