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Rangers Vs. Islanders: That Ended Nicely

Notes from the Rangers win over the Islanders.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

- How impressive has this stretch been? The Rangers have beaten Nashville, Chicago and the Islanders while playing their best game of the season (and losing in overtime) to Detroit. Those are some of the best teams in the NHL and the Rangers earned seven of a possible eight points ... without Henrik Lundqvist.

- On the topic of goaltenders, Cam Talbot was spectacular last night. Just made a plethora of amazing saves in enormous circumstances. The breakaway stop on Josh Bailey with the game tied at one? Outstanding. His final five minutes heroics to seal the win? Jaw dropping. 12-2-3 since Lundqvist went down with an injury. Who would have guessed that? You? Put your hand down you liar.

- I'm having a really hard time picking out who I thought had the best game for the Rangers in terms of forwards. Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes or Mats Zuccarello. Nash's goal wasn't pure luck (although there was a lot of it involved). Breaking into the zone with speed and stopping on a dime at the blue line was a brilliant move, and it worked perfectly since the pack of players turned to see what he was doing, moved into the slot and the puck deflected off one of them and into the net. Just a really smart play by Nash there. Amazing what happens when you throw the puck at the net.

- But Kevin Hayes needs serious consideration as well. First of all, that goal was OMG territory. I was talking to my boss who is a huge Rangers fan last night and he keeps saying the same thing about Hayes: You can't teach that type of patience. It's true, you really can't. To be a rookie in the NHL and to have the stones to stop in front of the net, fake to the right and slam the puck home to the left? In that type of a game. With all the standings implications involved. And at that point in the game when the Rangers desperately needed a spark? My word.

- Final Hayes note: One of the best parts of this season has been watching him grow. He is the jackpot type of move that Glen Sather noted when he talked about being able to move Anthony Duclair. It's still early, but I really do see what he was saying. I'm not sure if he'll get there, but Hayes might reach the 20-20 club. He has 13 goals and 17 assists through 62 right now, but those numbers don't tell how good he's been of late. 14 points in the last 19 games. Not bad at all.

- And, of course, Zuccarello, who made the perfect home run pass to Hayes on his goal and was an animal all night. Zuccarello got absolutely popped by Matt Martin (isn't Tanner Glass supposed to stop that from happening?), bounced right up and was involved in every scrum possible. His snarl is perfect for games like this.

- Speaking of Glass, he wasn't the worst player on the ice last night. I don't know why, but he seems to be most effective (in terms of his toughness role) against the Islanders. Still, as much as last night might not have been a disaster, James Sheppard is a much better option. The fourth line got roasted when Glass was on the ice, and Glass wasn't played the final seven minutes of a close game. Against Chicago Sheppard was played late, so this move makes no sense to me. Hopefully this is the end of it.

- The worst player of the game? Martin St. Louis. Ho boy. I've talked a lot about how invisible he's been of late, but last night he was noticeably bad. He can't hold the puck, made a few horrific turnovers and didn't create much offense at all. He can be quiet so long as he wasn't a detriment. He was a detriment last night. I keep betting on him at this point, but I don't know what the issue is.

- The third line, however, was fantastic. J.T. Miller and Hayes make one hell of a combination, and Carl Hagelin really compliments them nicely. When Alain Vigneault relegated Chris Kreider to the fourth line (I have no idea why this happened) he moved Miller up to the second line, and Miller worked well there. Miller also got crunch time minutes being shifted on the final minute of the game. Outside of the turnover that led to the Bailey breakaway, he was great.

- Some of the media are already blaming Keith Yandle for the power play woes. This is why we can't have nice things. A longer story is coming on this soon (maybe tomorrow) but I cannot believe we've reached this point just four games into his Rangers career. He's made the power play better (if you can believe it) and I really like him and Dan Boyle back there. But one player can't fix a five-player mess, so we're here. Also, Yandle had about five or six amazing defensive plays to put out some fires. Really good work from him. Blaming him for the power play is missing the point.

- Overall, a really nice night from the defense all around -- although Dan Girardi had a few patented "what the hell was that" situations.

Thoughts?