What. A. Game.
The New York Rangers were down for a majority of tonight's game against the New York Islanders, but at the end of the night, they were never truly out. The Rangers completed the improbable tonight, and rallied off three third period goals to defeat the Islanders by a final score of 6-5. This game was the complete opposite of a goaltending battle, which consisted of 11 goals, a combined 85 shots between the two teams, and certainly lived up to the hype.
As was expected, this game certainly started off with bang, and the Islanders capitalized off of a turnover just 11 seconds into the game. Cam Talbot wound up botching a chip pass to Ryan McDonagh behind the net, and John Tavares swooped in to collect the loose puck. The puck was on his stick no more than half a second, and the puck was already in the back of the net. Talbot is usually known for his calm, and collected puck control, but that one seemed to get away from him for some reason.
The Rangers seemed a bit stunned by the early goal, and let the Islanders suffocate them in the offensive zone for a majority of the first period. Eventually, the poor play in their own end lead to yet another goal, and the Islanders grabbed the 2-0 lead at the 11:46 mark. Just prior to the goal, the Rangers failed to win two puck battles behind the net, and the puck popped out to Travis Hamonic who bombed one on net. Talbot's rebound control was spotty at best tonight, and that was exactly the case on the second goal.
The rebound kicked right out to Frans Neilsen who was stationed off to the side of the net, and he banged home the easy tap in. After falling into an early 2-0 hole, the Rangers decided it was time to show, and cut the lead to 2-1 just under three minutes later. Dan Girardi created the goal by tossing a quick pass through a crowd in front of the crease, and the puck eventually worked its way out to Ryan McDonagh. With plenty of time to tee up a shot, McDonagh bombed one through the bodies in front, and beat Jaroslav Halak just under the blocker hand.
Considering the start they had to the game, the Rangers had to consider themselves lucky that this was only a one goal game heading into the intermission. Obviously the Rangers didn't learn their lesson, though, as the Islanders quickly responded early in the second period to restore the two goal lead. Johnny Boychuck was able to capitalize on a failed clearing attempt by Kevin Klein, and cranked a heavy slap shot from just inside the blue line. This was probably another goal that Talbot wanted back, mainly because this was very stoppable puck with no one obstructing his vision.
Nonetheless, the Rangers had to claw their way back out of the hole once again, and they answered right back with two goals. The first goal came from Chris Kreider, who seemed to fool Halak with a quick wrist shot, and beat him high glove off of the post. Then just 23 seconds later, Ryan McDonagh came away with his second goal of the night on a very long shot from the blue line. The puck wound up going off of Lubomir Visnovsky's stick just above the crease, and the puck popped over Halak's glove before he was able to adjust to the redirection.
Little did we know though, this was just the beginning. As if the game wasn't crazy enough at this point, the Islanders made things interesting with another go-ahead goal over 4 minutes later. Just as Derek Stepan's tripping minor was coming to an end, Travis Hamonic tossed an off-angle shot on net, and Talbot kicked the rebound into the high slot. With Dan Girardi failing to pick up his man, Ryan Strome was able to get a few whacks at the puck, and eventually chipped it over Talbot's pad.
After a string of goals early in the period, the scoring quieted down for the remaining 13 minutes, and it left one final period to decide things. And boy did it. After the Rangers came on strong to start the third period, the Islanders had an early chance off of a Dan Boyle turnover, and capitalized on the odd-man rush. Frans Neilsen picked up the primary assist on the goal, as he fed Ryan Strome with a quick pass, and Strome finished it off with a beautiful shot under the bar. That goal certainly felt like it was the dagger with only 17 minutes left to come up with two goals.
And boy were we wrong. Following Strome's second of the night, the Rangers rattled off three consecutive goals and took a 6-5 lead late in the third period. First it was Derek Stepan, who received a gorgeous spin pass from Chris Kreider, and beat Halak just over the blocker to make it a one goal game. That goal was huge in terms of momentum, and from that point on, the Rangers really never looked back.
Just under two minutes later, Martin St. Louis slammed home his first goal in 16 games, and knotted this crazy game up at 5-5. Chris Kreider was able to make an excellent play on Boychuck in the slot, and sprung Stepan and St. Louis in on the 2-on-1 rush. Stepan was able to slide the puck under the stick of Nick Leddy, and St. Louis capped it off with a patented one-knee slap shot into the top corner.
The Rangers didn't stop there, though, and kept the train rolling into the closing minutes of the period. With under five minutes remaining in the game, Derick Brassard had his most dominating shift of the night, and kept the puck alive in the offensive zone. After curling around to the far side of the ice, Brassard quickly fed a centering feed out front, and found Kevin Klein wide open at the right face-off circle. Klein wasted no time, and beat Halak over the blocker once again to give the Rangers their first and only lead of the game.
The Rangers were able to keep the pressure on for the remaining four minutes of the game, and didn't allow the Islanders to pull Halak. However, with about 20 seconds remaining, Josh Bailey had a golden opportunity to tie the game up, but rang it off of the post to the left of Talbot. The Rangers were able kill off the remaining time on the clock, and came away with one of their most impressive wins on the season over the Islanders.
This win showed a tremendous amount of character to not only battle back three separate times, but to then come away with a win in regulation after it was all said and done. After tonight's crazy game, the Rangers will have some extra rest before they head back to Madison Square Garden for a meeting with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.