Friday night’s battle of New York lived up to expectations. In front of a sellout crowd, the Islanders outlasted the New York Rangers in a shootout, 4-3, at Nassau Coliseum.
The cross-town rivals traded goals in the opening two periods and penalties in the last two. The game came down to the wire and even the shootout went to extra innings before Matt Moulson ended the emotional affair.
“It was an intense game,” Moulson said. “A lot of energy put forth. When you battle like that and come in [the locker room] and you’re exhausted, you know you did the right things out there.”
Tied at three entering the third period, neither team could take advantage of the others’ mistakes. Ryan Callahan took a penalty at 14:26, followed by a Kyle Okposo elbowing call at 17:13. In overtime, Milan Jurcina took a boarding minor at 3:47, before Derek Stepan was called for hooking at 4:23.
The shootout was just as close. Frans Nielsen abandoned his backhand move, instead going five-hole on former teammate Martin Biron to give the Isles the lead. The Rangers leading scorer, Marion Gaborik tied it in the same frame. The goaltenders stymied the next four shooters until Moulson fired a low shot stick-side on Biron. Evgeni Nabokov capped an impressive return stopping 33 shots in regulation and John Mitchell when it counted most.
“Nabby played great for us in net,” Moulson said. “We knew we had to get him the win and we found a way. When you have a game like that, of that importance, it’s a little more icing on the cake.”
The Islanders opened the scoring at 6:07 when Moulson, parked in front of the net, finished a feed from John Tavares. Two minutes and 35 seconds later, PA Parenteau put the Islanders up by two, taking a no-look between the legs feed from Tavares and hammering it by Biron. Marc Staal cut the deficit to one with a power play marker before the period ended.
“We missed some opportunities to show up early in games and it cost us,” Parenteau said. “Tonight we talked about it and we actually did it for the first time in a while. Even if we gave up a two-goal lead, we showed a lot of character staying with it.”
Parenteau, who now has 15 points (7g/8a) against his former team, added his second goal in the middle frame, a power play marker at 8:11. Three and a half minutes later, Gaborik skated in alone with Nabokov pulling the Rangers within one with a glove-side tally. A late penalty by call-up Casey Cizikas proved costly, as 35 seconds in, a Stepan shot took an unfortunate bounce off an Islanders defenseman and into the net.
The Islanders also welcomed back Travis Hamonic, who played his first game since taking a puck to the face and suffering a broken nose on Feb. 4. Hamonic was sidelined for nine games and was wearing a cage in his return.
With the win over the Eastern Conference’s first place team, the Islanders sit six points back of eighth-seeded Florida. At one game under .500, the Islanders embark on a four-game road trip, starting Sunday evening in Ottawa.
“We’ve had success in Ottawa,” Hamonic said. “We didn’t come out the way we wanted to last time we played Ottawa, but we are going to be ready. We feel we are right there with the pack.”