Recap: What. A. Comeback.

Recap: What. A. Comeback.
Feb 18, 2024; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Rangers players celebrate after defeating the New York Islanders during the overtime period of a Stadium Series ice hockey game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most magical moments for any hockey player growing up is the feeling of those first couple of strides after lacing up your skates in the freezing cold, out on the pond or a homemade backyard rink. Even for the most serious of professionals, it’s a feeling that never goes away and that’s what makes outdoor games like these so special. While it was a bit mind boggling that this was the first time these two teams were meeting this season, there’s no question the stage was appropriately set for what was bound to be an incredible day for hockey.

1st Period:

One thing about outdoor games, you have to shoot the puck any chance you get. With the sun and all the elements, you never know what route the puck is going to take to the net. The Islanders tested Igor Shesterkin early but it would be the Rangers striking first as Erik Gustafsson let a slap shot go from the point just a minute and a half in that beat Ilya Sorokin to put his team up 1-0.

The story of the day, possibly one of the stories of the year going into this game, was the NHL debut of Matt Rempe. The 6”8 forward would make his NHL debut on the five year anniversary of his father’s passing, becoming the tallest player to play in the league this season as well as the first rookie to make his NHL debut in an outdoor game. Just one second into his NHL career, he was dropping the gloves with one of the toughest customers in the league, veteran winger Matt Martin. Say what you want about the fight or what it did for the game, how could you not get up for this kid?

At any rate, it wouldn’t take long for the Islanders to get on the board as just a couple of minutes after the fight, Brock Nelson, who is no stranger to scoring goals in outdoor games, let a quick shot go while filling in on the Isles “identity line” for Matt Martin, to put one past the glove of Igor Shesterkin to tie the game up, 1-1.

On the shift that followed the goal, Islander’s defender Scott Mayfield was given the games first penalty as he was sent off for boarding Barclay Goodrow. Power play one wouldn’t get much done and power play two wouldn’t have much of a chance as Alexis Lafrenière collided with Casey Cizikas away from the play which sent him off for tripping.

Just as the  4-on-4 play was coming to an end, Bo Horvat came flying down the right wing side of the ice and let a quick snap-shot go through the blocker side of Shesterkin to put the Islanders up 2-1. Shots are extra unpredictable in outdoor games but that was certainly one Igor would have liked to have back. Speaking of which, just 14 seconds later, Mat Barzal went hard to the net and was able to redirect a pass from Nelson to put it up and over Shesterkin, quickly altering the momentum of this one to make it a 3-1 game.


Peter Laviollete wisely used his timeout to settle things down which was quite effective in the sense that the games overall pace definitely calmed down from there. Only problem with that was the Rangers were really struggling to get pucks on the net as they were only credited with four shots on goal with just as many minutes remaining in the period. They would finish the games first twenty with a total of seven shots which was less than half of the Islanders total at 16.

Obviously not an ideal opening period for the Rangers in the sense they were trailing 3-1 but the game was far from over. The Rangers had a couple of strong shifts from their bottom-six forwards, they just needed to get a spark out of their top guys. The Islanders were beating them in face-offs with a 75% success rate and as a result, were doing a much better job of controlling play. The Rangers would have to find a way to maintain better puck possession and get more shots on net as the game went on if they wanted to stay in it.

2nd Period:

The Rangers had a strong shift to start the period but it would be spoiled as Chris Kreider took an offensive zone penalty which earned him two minutes for hooking Adam Pelech. The Islanders were quick to take advantage as Anders Lee would deflect a shot from Pierre Engvall at the point to capitalize on the man advantage and put the Rangers at a 4-1 deficit.

While things were not looking great by any means up to this point, it felt like the Rangers were still in it the way they were playing. They continued to get chances as the Zibanejad/Kreider line had an opportunity with a bouncing puck in the crease and Artemiy Panarin would later rip a shot off the post. On that same play, the Isles would take their second penalty of the night as Anders Lee was called for slashing Mika Zibanejad.

A much better showing from the Rangers top power play unit as Artemiy Panarin was not hesitating to shoot the puck. After a couple looks, Panarin let one go from the slot that would take a redirect off the blade of Vincent Trocheck’s stick to beat Sorokin to bring the Rangers within a pair, 4-2.

The momentum would shift in the Rangers favor from there but there was still lots of work to be done. As the period went on, the Islanders continued leading the charge in shots on goal but the Rangers were doing their best in hanging around. It was a shaky start for Shesterkin but there was no question he dialed in as he came up with a couple of flashy saves to help keep his team in it.

With just over a minute and a half to go in the second, the Rangers second line went to work on a hard shift in the offensive zone and after coming out on top of several puck battles, Vincent Trocheck was able to chip a rebound over a sprawled out Sorokin to bring his team within one.

The Rangers finished out the period with a strong shift in the offensive zone which further solidified that they weren’t going down without a fight. At the end of two, shots were heavily in favor of the Islanders 35-19. On top of that, they were 2-for-2 on the man advantage and were staying strong in the face-off circle now at a 74% win percentage. While they still had the one goal lead, it was anyone’s game heading into the final period of what was becoming quite an exciting game.

3rd Period:

Another tough break for the Rangers as they got off to a fine start but quickly gave up another goal to the Islanders. A deflected shot from the point ended up landing right on the stick of Alex Romanov, who had nothing but net to shoot on. Part of the reason he was left all alone was because Ryan Lindgren, who was supposed to be covering that side of the net, was left lying hurt on the ice as the play unfolded. Just before Romanov found the puck for the goal, his stick caught Lindgren high and hard on a follow through which isn’t a penalty but certainly an unfortunate situation for Lidngren and the Rangers. He would head straight to the Rangers locker room where he wouldn’t return for the rest of the game.

The energy took a solemn turn both for the Rangers and the crowd as it took some time for play to pick back up. Just over the midway point of the third, Adam Edström drew a tripping penalty against Scott Mayfield which gave the Rangers a great chance to get back in this one. A strong power play attempt but an equally strong penalty kill for the Islanders kept the game at 5-3.

As time was running out, Trocheck and Romanov got in a bit of a shoving match in the Islanders zone which was enough for the officials to blow the whistle. This led to what was set to be two minutes of 4-on-4 play but a penalty from Mat Barzal would give the Rangers a 4-on-3 power play for about a minute and a half. Laviolette would make the decision to pull Shesterkin for the extra attacker to give them an additional advantage which would pay off greatly for them. After a couple close calls, the Rangers did a fantastic job of holding the zone and not long after all the penalties expired, Chris Kreider would tip in a shot from Panarin at the point to bring his team within one. A massive goal off a gutsy move by the Rangers coaching staff.

Just as the Rangers went to pull Shesterkin again with two and a half minutes to go, Lafrenière was tripped up by Mayfield for his third penalty of the night which would give the Rangers yet another power play to ride out the final minutes of regulation. Setting the stage for a truly magic finish.

As they fought to maintain possession, Alexis Lafrenière found Adam Fox at the point with a nice pass. Fox then sent it over to the left wing wall perfectly where Mika Zibanejad, let his iconic one timer go, destined for the back of the net to tie the game up at 5.

What a story this game had turned into. The Rangers overcame a 4-1 deficit to tie the game up at five. A classic “no quit” effort that would make for an already exciting game to come down to as exciting a moment the sport could get, overtime.


It would be a bit of an unorthodox finish but man, would it be an exciting one. Just ten seconds into 3-on-3 bonus hockey, Artemiy Panarin picked up an Islanders turnover which resulted in an outstanding individual effort from the Rangers top forward. However, as the puck crossed the goal line, Noah Dobson knocked the Islanders net off which led to some uncertainty from everyone, including the official. As the rulebook states (rule 63.7), as long as the puck was in the process of becoming a goal as the net came off, the referee may award a goal. After a quick meeting with the officials and a call from Toronto, the goal would stand and the Rangers would pull off a miraculous come from behind victory to beat the Islanders 6-5.

I mean, it doesn’t get much better than this. Outdoor games don’t take place every day so no matter the outcomes, players, coaches, and fans alike all cherish the memories that come from them. The Rangers had far from a perfect showing but they stuck with it and pulled off an incredible come from behind victory to now extend their win streak to seven games. A tough start from Shesterkin resulted in him playing a huge part in the team’s win as he made 41 saves to help his team come out of it with two points. This was truly a team effort as everyone up and down the line up had something to do with the game as well as the coaching staff for making some great decisions.

This win will certainly go down as one of, if not the most exciting regular season win as the Rangers continue to be one of the hottest teams in the league. They’ll look to build off this momentum as they’ll host the Dallas Stars back indoors at the Garden on Tuesday Night.