The New York Rangers got the job done once again, and defeated the New York Islanders tonight by a final score of 2-1. The win gives the Rangers their second consecutive win on Long Island, and now moves them within a single point of first place in the Metropolitan Division. In addition, the Rangers also hold four games in hand over the Islanders, and one game in hand over Pittsburgh.
Cam Talbot had yet another excellent game in between the pipes, and kept the Rangers above water when the Islanders were swarming early on. Speaking of the start, the Rangers once again fell in a hole to start the game, and allowed the Islanders to dictate the pace right out of the gate. Alain Vigneault mentioned prior to the game that he wanted to get a decent start under their belt, something that hasn't happened all season long against the Islanders. That was the case one again tonight, and just nine minutes into regulation, the Islanders grabbed the first goal of the evening.
Anders Lee basically outworked both Marc Staal, and J.T. Miller to corral the loose puck behind the net, and bull rushed his way to the front of the net. Talbot wound up losing the puck in a slew of bodies to the side of the net, and it slipped under his pad to give the Islanders an early 1-0 lead. It was certainly a disappointing start, especially after the Rangers made it a priority to have a decent start in this game.
While the Islanders controlled a majority of the play early in the first period, the Rangers started to catch some life during the second half. After being out-shot 10-2, the Rangers started getting some rubber towards Jaroslav Halak, and generated a few decent chances. The way the Rangers ended the period, you could tell that they something in store for the Islanders to start the second period.
Sure enough, the Rangers came out much stronger during the middle frame, and kept up the pressure in the offensive zone. Finally, at the 11:35 mark, the Rangers found their first goal of the game courtesy of Kevin Hayes, and knotted the game up at 1-1. And what a goal it was. Mats Zuccarello starts the entire play to find Hayes all alone at the far blue line. Hayes was able to get at least a step and a half on Thomas Hickey, and broke in on a partial breakaway with Hickey quickly gaining ground on him.
Hickey attempted to make a play on Hayes, but he fought him off, spun the other way, and slam dunked the puck into the empty net. We've seen the type of creativity Hayes has with some of his previous goals, but I think this one easily takes the cake. He not only fought off the oncoming defender, but also had the confidence to spin off of him, and finished it off with a slam dunk at the top of the crease.
It seems like Kevin Hayes continues to get better every single game, and when he's scoring goals like that, it's hard not to notice. The goal clearly energized the Rangers, and they finished out the period with a dominating performance. The Rangers didn't let up there, though, and came right back in the third period in search of the go-ahead goal.
Just 2:50 into the the third period, Rick Nash caught a fortuitous bounce in the high slot, and the puck wound up bouncing in the net off of Ryan Strome. While the bounce itself was as lucky as it gets, Nash's play prior to the goal was quite impressive. Coming through the neutral zone with speed, Nash faked the dump around the boards, which backed off the onlooking defender. That gave Nash the extra space he needed to gain the zone, and caught a favorable bounce to finish it off.
It's no surprise that Nash has been an absolute monster all season long, and he's just one goal shy of notching his 40th goal on the season. With plenty of time still remaining, the Islanders continued to fight for the tying goal, but Cam Talbot had other plans. The Rangers also did a very good job of limiting the Islanders shots, and only gave up 7 shots throughout the third period.
With under two minutes remaining, the Islanders elected to pull the goal, and went to work in the offensive zone. They certainly had a few opportunities to knot up the game late in regulation, but the Rangers did a great job with the coverage in their own zone. The Rangers were able to hang on to their 2-1 lead, and eventually came away with two massive points against the division-leading Islanders.
Many feared this upcoming stretch of games because the quality of competition was through the roof, but through four games in March, the Rangers are 3-0-1. Tonight was certainly a big win, as previously mentioned, but tomorrow night it is right back to work against the Washington Capitals. The Rangers have taken advantage of their games in hand thus far, and they have yet another opportunity to create even more padding in the standings tomorrow night.