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New York Rangers Blitz Islanders Late, Put Their Rivals Playoff Hopes on Life Support with 4-1 Victory

February 1st, 2014 at 10:00 AM
By Ricky Cibrano

'Rangers at Islanders Nov 06 2007 066 copy' photo (c) 2007, Bluesguy from NY - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
It was a lot closer than the typical 4-1 game, but it counts all the same. 

After being outplayed for the majority of the first two periods, the New York Rangers took control in the third and struck for three unanswered goals–the last one an empty netter–to secure a 4-1 win over the Islanders at the Garden. Henrik Lundqvist was superb in making 38 saves–18 in a second period that saw the Isles score just once–and Derick Brassard potted the game winner with 8 minutes to go in the third.

With the win, the Blueshirts have won three in a row–the last two against the Islanders–and earn a 3 games to 2 victory in the prematurely finished season series with their crosstown rivals–because apparently someone thought it was a good idea for these two not to meet at all the final two months of the season.

It wasn't a first two periods to remember for the Rangers, that's for sure. After Brian Boyle scored early, the Blueshirts–who had 5 shots in the first minute of the game–saw the Islanders roar back to seize control. In the 39 minutes following the opening one, the Rangers were outshot 31-15.

Not good. But Henrik Lundqvist was. The King was spectacular in keeping his team in it until they were able to regroup during the second intermission. Lundqvist surrendered just one goal through two periods–a rebound tally by Kyle Okposo after the Rangers had been hemmed in their own zone for 2+ minutes–and turned aside wave after wave of Islander assaults on his net, preserving a 1-1 tie.

"The goalie, that's as big as I've seen him come up this year for us" said Alain Vigneault. "He made some unreal saves, in total control, and permitted us to bring it to the third."

Between periods, Vigneault apparently pulled out his "win one for the Gipper" speech, because the team that came out for the third in no way resembled the one on the Garden ice for the first two. No longer a spectator in their own building, the Rangers were able to get in Evgeni Nabokov's face, and eventually broke through–in no small part because of the continued brilliance of Mats Zuccarello.

Zuccarello took the puck from behind his own net, drew a hooking penalty on Cal Clutterbuck, and continued to lead the rush up ice. He pulled up to wait for reinforcements upon entering the offensive zone, found Marc Staal–who had a standout game–on the left wing, who hit Brassard for the one-timer to give the Blueshirts a 2-1 lead. 

The goal seemed to break the Islanders. Just 2:45 later, Brad Richards struck to make it 3-1–a softy through the pads of Nabokov–all but sealing the fate of the frustrated Isles, who spent much of the rest of the game using their sticks for activities other than shooting, many of them illegal.

Adding to the sweetness of victory for the Rangers–or at least for fans–is that with back-to-back wins over their crosstown rivals, the Blueshirts have firmly wedged the Isles between a rock and a hard place. With 5 straight loses and just 50 points, the future Brooklynites playoff hopes are on life support. If the Rangers did indeed just pull the plug, that will only add an exclamation point to this years victory in the annual "Battle of New York." 

Tags: Alain Vigneault, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, Islanders, Kyle Okposo, Marc Staal, Mats Zuccarello, New York, New York Rangers, NHL

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