It was another ugly one tonight in Yankee Stadium, but the Rangers found a way through the bouncy ice and a sub zero wind chill for a 2-1 win against the Islanders, sweeping the Stadium Series and further cementing themselves in second place in the Metro Division heading into the Olympic break.
The first period was primarily a feeling out process mainly for the Islanders, who at times dominated with the puck, keeping the Rangers pinned in their end and never let the Rangers establish their forecheck. A ton of whistles early on didn't help things either.
Henrik Lundqvist was by far the best player on the ice for both teams. The second period began with the Rangers showing defensive lapses that have gotten them into trouble in the past and led to a few good scoring chances for the Isles, but Lundqvist was focused and sharp and played infinitely better tonight compared to Sunday.
As with past outdoor experiences the Rangers have had, the opposition scored first. During an Isles rush up ice, a couple gratuitous bounces in the Ranger end led to Matt Donovan's no look, through the legs pass to a wide open Brock Nelson who potted one behind Lundqvist at 18:33.
Luckily for the Rangers it took all of 40 seconds to respond and tie the game at 1 heading into the second intermission. A shot from the high slot by Zuccarello sailed wide, but Brassard fetched the rebound and quickly found Pouliot at the top of the crease and roofed one over a badly down and out Nabokov for the equalizer.
Say what you want about Carcillo, but there were two separate points, both intentional and unintentional where his presence turned the tide for the Rangers. Carcillo took a borderline high-sticking penalty midway through the second. The resulting successful PK generated momentum as they began establishing their forecheck on a more consistent basis and never really let the Isles dictate the pace or flow of the game for the duration of the second and a vast majority of the third.
The game winner came at 4:36 of the third period that was generated by another open ice hit, this time by Boyle at center ice. The resulting turnover led to a give and go between Carcillo and Dominic Moore. Moore's initial shot was blocked down by Nabokov, but a big rebound came right out to Carcillo for the winner.
I was concerned heading into this game that with the trade rumors beginning to swirl over some of the bigger names on the Rangers roster, it was going to create distractions and lead to un-necessary losses against teams they should be able to beat on most nights. Games such as these aren't great measuring sticks to show where the team is mentally, but with the Rangers being able to persevere through falling behind on the scoreboard and not letting a game spiral out of control, can mean only positive signs moving forward. It wasn't all that long ago where falling behind 1-0 turned into an auto loss for this team.
The Rangers have 4 games left with 3 of them at home heading into the break and that starts Friday with another game against the Islanders at MSG, their last meeting of the season.
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