EARLY GOALS HOLD OFF LATE PUSH
By Francis Rizzo III
Early goals in all three periods, a pair of powerplay tallies from Mark Parrish and 26 saves from Rick DiPietro helped the Islanders hold off the Rangers for their second win over their rivals in two days.
The Islanders got off to a fast start, as Miroslav Satan, Arron Asham and Alexei Yashin played a perfect game of tic-tac-toe to gain entry into the Rangers' zone. Yashin found Satan at the left post with the final pass, which the winger tucked into the upper right corner of the net over Kevin Weekes to give the Islanders the first lead of the game.
It took just 26 seconds for the Islanders to make it 2-0, as Trent Hunter fed Jason Blake off a low cycling play in the corner. Driving to the net, Blake was able to squeeze the puck between Weekes' leg pad and the left post for his fourth goal of the year. Though the visitors called a time-out to regroup, the Islanders' momentum was given a further boost as Rangers rookie Petr Prucha took an elbowing penalty and put the Islanders on the powerplay.
23 seconds on the man-advantage was all the home team needed to push their lead to three goals. Brent Sopel fired a rocket wide-right of the net, but Alexei Zhitnik pinched in from the point and put the puck on Parrish's stick in the slot. From there, it was a short trip to the back of the net.
Zhitnik went from helping to hurting, as he took a hooking penalty to give the Rangers a manpower advantage, but a delay-of-game penalty on Weekes negated the advantage before the Blueshirts could score. The situation went from good to bad to worse for the Rangers, as Rucinsky paid a visit to the sin bin shortly thereafter. The 5-on-3 didn't pay dividends, though Robert Nilsson had a nice chance down low that was deflected away from the net.
The second half of the period saw more hitting, as Petteri Nokelainen threw his weight around and Oleg Kvasha absorbed a big check from former Coliseum favorite Darius Kasparaitis that put the Ranger on his knees. The locals got a scare when Sopel and Ville Nieminen collided behind the Islanders net. Sopel was slow to get back on his feet, but returned to action quickly.
A flurry of activity surrounded DiPietro in the final minutes of the first, as the Rangers took control of the puck in the Islanders' zone. Rucinsky had an open net, but was facing the wrong direction, but the Rangers kept pressing. Trying to fend off the pressure, Janne Niinimaa took a high-sticking penalty, followed by a crosschecking penalty by Zhitnik on the kill. Though the Islanders tried valiantly to stop the Rangers potent 5-on-3 powerplay, Jaromir Jagr found put the puck in the net just after the 19-minute mark. Taking advantage of a missed chance to clear the puck, Jagr jumped into a scramble down low in the Islanders' end of the ice to put the puck over a prone DiPietro, making the score 3-2, with just two seconds left in the first.
It was a different story to start the second period, as the Rangers took the play to the home team, getting the first two shots of the period, and a powerplay when Tomi Pettinen took down Martin Rucinsky. Despite a gift-wrapped scoring chance, which jumped Jagr's stick, it was the Islanders who would pick up a goal, thanks to a blueline miscue by the Rangers. Asham picked off the puck and split the defense to break in on net. Taken down by Marek Malik, Asham still managed to slide the puck past Kevin Weekes on the delayed penalty, to put the hosts up by two with a shorthanded tally.
The celebrating in the Coliseum didn't last long though, as the Islanders would lose the puck at their own blueline, sending Marcel Hossa into the offensive zone. Working a 2-on-1 to perfection with Rucinsky, Hossa fed his linemate to set up an open-net tap-in on his fifth shot of the night, cutting their deficit to one goal.
After the early scoring explosion, the game became an up-and-down affair, with neither team seizing control. For most of the period, the Islanders' best chance was a 2-on-1 between Blake and Hunter five minutes into the stanza. After a toe-drag around the sprawling defense, Hunter buried the puck in Weekes' breadbasket. A pair of Islanders powerplays didn't change matters much, as the home team managed just one shot, nor did a mid-period man-up chance for the Rangers.
Once again though, the late minutes of the period saw both squads turn on the juice, as they traded chances in both directions. Down low in the final minute of the period, the Rangers generated a few quality chances, but were stopped by DiPietro, who made eight saves in the second.
A quick start once again got the Islanders on the board in the third, thanks to the hard work of Mike York's line. York, Blake and Hunter put the pressure on the Rangers behind their net, forcing Michal Rozsival into a hooking penalty. With the man-advantage, the Islanders' point pairing of Zhitnik and Sopel worked the puck around the zone, finding Parrish in front, who tipped-in the blast for his second powerplay goal of the game and a 5-3 Islander lead.
Less than a minute later, a pair of penalties to Asham and Neiminen created two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey, which gave the Rangers a few opportunities to test DiPietro. Facing down a mini-break-in by Rucinsky, the netminder applied a timely poke-check to break up the play. It was one of several quick saves DiPietro had to make during the Rangers' rush. The visitors took a big lead in shots, but were stoned by the Islanders again and again.
The tightly-contested game had a moment of levity when, during a delayed penalty on the Rangers, Rick DiPietro handled the puck up to the Islanders blueline, twice attempting to pass to an open teammate, with his net relatively safe from a scoring chance. After that bit of comic relief, the game took on a manic pace, becoming a perfect example of the new wide-open NHL. The whistle went dead as the two teams went on the offensive, with York's trio joined by the Nokelainen-Parrish-Kvasha line in keeping the puck down low, setting up a great chance in the slot for Parrish that was stopped by Weekes.
The flow ended with a penalty to Zhitnik just before the 7-minute mark. Though Hunter, Asham and Lukowich blocked several shots on the penalty kill, Jagr got loose around the goalmouth again, and potted his third of the night for a hat trick. The Islanders missed a chance to build their lead moments later, as Nokelainen picked off a Rangers pass in the neutral zone and fed Asham on a 2-on-1. The rookie's pass caught Asham a moment too late on his way to the net, and trickled off the toe of his stick.
Just inside the final minute of the game, Parrish took a perfect feed just ahead of the Rangers' zone, and broke in alone for a chance at a hat trick of his own to wrap up the game. The shot went wide of the net, setting up a wild end to the game, during which the Rangers pulled Weekes and put a couple of chances toward the net that never made it to DiPietro.
ICE CHIPS: For the Islanders, Shawn Bates (hip, day-to-day) and Radek Martinek (healthy) were scratched, while Dale Purinton, newly-acquired Jeff Taffe and Jason Strudwick sat for the Rangers... Alexei Yashin entered Thursday's game on a four-game point streak, during which he has two goals and three assists... On the penalty kill, the Islanders entered play in the NHL's top 10 in the league, stopping 88-percent of the power plays they've faced.
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(12) Oleg Kvasha-(29) Petteri Nokelainen-(37) Mark Parrish
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(21) Robert Nilsson-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(25) Brad Lukowich-(14) Chris Campoli
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(8) Tomi Pettinen
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(82) Martin Straka-(92) Michal Nylander-(68) Jarmoir Jagr
(26) Martin Rucinsky-(20) Steve Rucchin-(81) Marcel Hossa
(10) Ville Nieminen-(19) Blair Betts-(14) Jason Ward
(25) Petr Prucha-(18) Dominic Ward-(41) Jed Ortmeyer
(6) Darius Kasparaitis-(24) Maxim Kondratiev
(51) Fedor Tyutin-(16) Tom Poti
(8) Marek Malik-(3) Michal Rozsival
(80) Kevin Weekes
(30) Henrik Lundqvist
--additional reporting by Brian Bohl
Jason Blake on the team's three goals in the opening 2:47:
"It was important to come out and really set the tone. We felt it was important to get shots on Weekes and get things started early."
On the team's consecutive victories against their cross-town rivals:
"We lost to them the last six times (before Wednesday), so its' nice to finally start getting wins against those guys."
Rick DiPietro on the team's physical play:
"Miro (Satan) was giving big hits. Everyone was throwing their body around. It's important to play physical and Asham was really good at getting bodies on people."
On facing Jaromir Jagr:
"He's unbelievable. Seeing the puck off him is impossible, not only is he a strong shooter, but he works very hard. Our guys did a good job just trying to stick with him every shift he's out there."
On the confidence of the team after two straight wins:
"I hope it's a turning point. We've been a work in progress, but we've gotten better. I think the more we play together the more disciplined we'll be. Now we just have to keep it going against Montreal."
Mark Parrish on physical play:
"Our big guys stayed up front and kept with them. We made some mistakes, but we did stay out of the box for the most part. We needed these last two games as a team."
On the team's fast start:
"It was important to come out and play well. I don't think we were expecting to score three goals like that, but we knew it was important to come out and get the crowd and momentum on our side."
On his last minute breakaway and possible hat trick:
"I don't get many breakaways, so it came as a bit of a shock. I was just worried about getting it off. I don't think I scared Weekes too much."