EARLY START, LATE FINISH
Mark Parrish and Trent Hunter combined to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead after seven minutes, but four-point nights from Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka and Michael Nylander helped give the Rangers a 6-2 win Wednesday at the Nassau Coliseum.
The energy in the Nassau Coliseum was on high Wednesday night, with the chants starting well before former Ranger Mike York won the first face-off. Some hard hits raised the noise level that much higher before Parrish gave the home crowd something to really yell about, putting the Islanders up 1-0. Hard work down-low behind the Rangers' net by Parrish and Shawn Bates got the puck up the boards to Janne Niinimaa who put a hard shot toward the goal. Rangers winger Jason Ward got a stick on the shot, but only enough to deflect it to Parrish in front of the net for a tip past Henrik Lundqvist.
The Islanders' second goal was a coast-to-coast effort by the team, started by Alexei Zhitnik behind Rick DiPietro's net. A big hit into the end-boards jarred the puck loose to York, who fed Jason Blake on a rush up-ice with Hunter. A quick pass to Hunter got the Islanders into the Rangers' end of the ice, and set up a hard one-timer by Brent Sopel. The shot deflected off Blake, but was corralled by Hunter, who tucked it under Lundqvist's arm to the short-side.
The Rangers answered back quickly though to pull within one just over a minute later. A bad bounce beat Brad Lukowich along the boards by the team benches and sent Rangers rookie Petr Prucha in on a breakaway attempt. Using his speed and hands, Prucha blew in on net, moved the puck from his backhand to his forehand and roofed it over a sliding DiPietro. The visitors would pull even when their leading scorer Jaromir Jagr collected a rebound off Marek Malik's hard slapper from the point and beat a handcuffed DiPietro.
After Ville Nieminen single-handedly gave the Islanders four minutes of power play time near the end of the first period, the Islanders got a chance on the power play to start the second period, when Malik was called for hooking down Blake just 23 seconds into play. The locals got several chances on net, but couldn't beat Rangers netminder Lundqvist before their two-minute advantage was up.
Lundqvist wasn't the only reason the score was even at the halfway point, as Parrish added goaltending to his impressive resume. A 3-2 Rangers lead seemed guaranteed as Ward beat DiPietro to a loose puck behind the Islanders net, and fed it through an open crease to a driving Blair Betts for a one-timer. A last-second dive by Parrish though put a stick between Betts and an open net, deflecting the shot wide.
Blake nearly put the Islanders on top with 1:30 left in the period, when he picked up a drop-pass by York just inside the Rangers' zone. Skating in on Lundqvist, Blake unleashed a wrister, but found only the metal of the crossbar, leaving the game tied after 40 minutes.
The third period started with up-and-down action as both teams traded chances and the fans traded chants, escalating the volume each time, though the scoreboard stayed the same. That all changed when a physical hit by Niinimaa just over six minutes into the third put Michael Nylander on the ice. Jagr chipped the loose puck over his prone linemate and passed it out in front to Martin Straka, who whipped it into the upper right corner of the net.
It took the Rangers less than two minutes to push their lead to two goals, with Shawn Bates in the sin bin on a hooking penalty. Jagr was back in the middle of the action, as his hard shot from the boards sailed wide right of DiPietro's net, putting the netminder off-balance. That left an open net for Tom Poti to deposit the rebound into. Jagr's line blew the game open minutes later, as Nylander and Straka converted a pair of breakaways into a 6-2 lead.
OFF THE ICE: Three Stars of the Night: 1. Jaromir Jagr, 2. Michael Nylander, 3. Martin Straka ... For the Islanders, Oleg Kvasha (ankle), Kevin Colley (knee) and Petteri Nokelainen (knee) were scratched, while the Rangers sat Marcel Hossa and Ryan Hollweg (healthy)... Arron Asham's next point will be his 100th in the NHL... There are plenty of members of the "New York, New York" club in attendance, with Mike York, Kevin Weekes, Darius Kasparaitis, Jason Strudwick and Martin Straka all having worn both team's sweaters... After four games so far this season, the two New York foes are tied 2-2, with the Rangers holding a 15-11 goal advantage. Jaromir Jagr holds the series lead in goals and points, posting five goals and ten points in four games.
--additional reporting by Brian Bohl
Brad Lukowich on how the team can improve:
"We know we have players with skill. It takes getting in the tough areas in front of the net [to win]. It takes guys making a hit, using their body to score. We need to get in the trenches."
On the responsibilities of the players:
"It's not Steve [Stirling] or Mike's [Milbury] fault. I hate reading that in the paper because it isn't true. The guys in this dressing room have to win hockey games and we're not doing it. It can't come from Stirling all the time, it needs to come from us."
Alexei Yashin on starting out strong:
"We created some good chances in the second. Then it all just fell apart."
On heading to Ottawa and regrouping:
"Nobody will help us but ourselves. Everyone needs to look inside and that starts with me. We all need to play better. It seems we play hard, but then just stop."
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(37) Mark Parrish-(17) Shawn Bates-(18) Jeff Hamilton
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(28) Wyatt Smith-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(25) Brad Lukowich
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(82) Martin Straka-(92) Michael Nylander-(68) Jaromir Jagr
(26) Martin Rucinsky-(20) Steve Rucchin-(25) Petr Prucha
(28) Colton Orr-(18) Dominic Moore-(41) Jed Ortmeyer
(10) Ville Nieminen-(19) Blair Betts-(14) Jason Ward
(6) Darius Kasparaitis-(51) Fedor Tyutin
(3) Michal Roszival-(8) Marek Malik
(16) Tom Poti-(34) Jason Strudwick
(30) Henrik Lundqvist
(80) Kevin Weekes