Move Into 1st Place After 4-2 Victory
It took four tries, but the Rangers finally came out ahead against the Islanders on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, 4-2. The victory propelled the Blueshirts into a first place tie in the Atlantic Division with the idle Philadelphia Flyers.
Winning goaltender Henrik Lundqvist understands the importance of the win, even though it is still early in the regular season. "It was a big game for us," he told reporters. "We don't want to go 0-for-4 against these guys. They're a division team, a New York team. It was a big step for us."
Jaromir Jagr opened the scoring in the first period and Miroslav Satan tied things up with a power play goal at 3:53 of the second period. That's when the Rangers' special teams and, more importantly, their two big offseason acquisitions took over. Power play goals tem minutes apart by Chris Drury and Scott Gomez gave them a 3-1 advantage, and Mike Comrie pulled the Isles with one with just over two minutes remaining in the middle period.
"We gave them those two power play goals," Islanders head coach Ted Nolan told reporters. "We didn't make them earn the goals. There were two situations where we didn't clear the puck down when we had it. Then they score. Those are a couple of mental things that hopefully can be corrected."
The Rangers were able to kill off four Islander power plays, including 29 seconds of a two-man advantage opportunity in the first period.
A tight third period ensued until Brandon Dubinsky redirected a shot passed Rick DiPietro at the 16:44 mark to give the Rangers some breathing room. "We really needed the points and needed to jump up in the standings, and obviously they've had our number the past few games," said Dubinsky to reporters. "I knew it was a big goal and I was real excited."
Steve Avery, the Rangers' resident pest, missed the game after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The Rangers struggled when the pesky winger missed some time earlier and will need to have more games like the one on Thursday to survive until he comes back in a few weeks.
The game did mark the return of Ryan Callahan, who had missed the previous 16 games with a sprained left knee. The winger found himself in the starting line-up with Drury and Petr Prucha.
Three one-goal losses to their rivals has been a thorn in the Rangers' side so far this season, and it was accentuated with the 2-1 loss at Madison Square Garden a mere 10 days ago. Prior to the latest game, the last time the Rangers beat the Islanders was all the way back on March 25, 2007 in a 2-1 overtime win at the Nassau Coliseum.
Both teams are neck and neck in the standings currently, with the Rangers having 30 points and the Islanders 27. Both clubs have 13 wins, but the biggest difference so far has been the Islanders surrendering 10 more goals than the Rangers (57 to 47).
Brings back memories of the old days with both teams fighting in the standings and they hopefully will meet in the postseason. Don't forget about the New Jersey Devils, either, who trail the Islanders by only one point after starting off extremely slow.