Rangers' OT Win Just Another Chapter
In the 1980's when the Islanders were in their dynasty days, the rivalry between them and the Rangers was at its peak. During their run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Islanders always seem to have the Rangers in one of the earlier rounds. And they always seemed to have their number, too.
On Sunday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum, the two teams squared off in a nationally televised game. The game was tied at one following regulation, and they played a tight overtime period that seemed destined to go to a shootout. But with 49 seconds left in the extra session, Michael Nylander was able to put the puck by Rick DiPietro to give the Rangers their fifth consecutive victory.
Both teams are in a dogfight for the remaining two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Going into the game, the Rangers had a hold of the seventh spot, two points ahead of the Islanders. This was a huge two points gained by the Blueshirts (who jumped into sixth place), while the Isles had to be disappointed even though they gained one point for the regulation tie. They remained in ninth place in the conference and technically out of the playoff picture.
It has been some time since both teams have made the playoffs in the same season. And because they haven't done so since the 1994-95 season, the intense rivalry has become almost non-existent. But this season things have started to resemble the days when Clark Gillies and Barry Beck were squaring off.
Perhaps the clincher was when Chris Simon performed his two-handed slash to the chin of Ryan Hollweg and was suspended for 25 games. If there was any doubt that there was bad blood between these boys, it was confirmed with that act.
The Rangers are currently on a 10-1-3 streak since the February 27th trading deadline, which has brought them back from the brink. They have one of the hottest goalies in the league in Henrik Lundqvist and are in position to not have to face the Buffalo Sabres or New Jersey Devils in the first round.
Te dagger in the latest game came on a power play opportunity after Sean Hill was whistled for hooking. Brendan Shanahan, who recently returned from post-concussion symptoms, sent in the shot that Nylander was able to redirect and get passed the sharp DiPietro for his 23rd tally on the season.
Both teams were able to kill off a five-on-three situation to send the game into overtime. Defense and goaltending was key in keeping this a low scoring affair. Key saves by both netminders frustrated the players and fans alike. There was little doubt even early on that this was going to be a one-goal game regardless of who won.
As the regular season winds down, both the Islanders and Rangers have a good chance to make the playoffs. Whatever happens in these next two weeks, New Yorkers can at least take away from the 2006-07 season the rekindling of the rivalry that was once the best in sports.