Powered by secondary scoring and special teams, the Islanders gutted out a 5-3 win over their archrivals, the New York Rangers, in a wild contest Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Michael Grabner scored two goals, including a shorthanded breakaway, while Thomas Vanek scored the winner 1:18 into the third period to give the Islanders points in three straight games. The Islanders scored goals five different ways: on a penalty shot, shorthanded, at even strength, on the power play and into an empty net. Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves to earn the win, while ten different Islanders hit the scoresheet.
“It’s good to score more than two goals,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We got 60 minutes of consistent effort form our guys, our penalty kill came up big when they had to and I thought Nabokov did a great job for us.”
The Islanders took seven minor penalties Friday, but were able to kill off five of them including one at a critical juncture in the third period. With 2:52 left to play, Josh Bailey was whistled for boarding, but the Islanders clamped down in their own end, allowing Grabner to ice the game with an empty netter as Bailey exited the box.
“For the most part, we were pretty aggressive [on the penalty kill and] we executed our game plan,” Grabner said. “We gave up a couple goals against, but overall it was a pretty good effort for our penalty killers.”
The parade to the box started early, but the Islanders turned the tables on the Rangers, scoring two shorthanded goals in a 2:27 span in the first period. Cal Clutterbuck scored his fourth goal of the season on a shorthanded penalty shot, sneaking the puck through Henrik Lundqvist for the Islanders’ first goal.
With the Islanders back on the penalty kill two minutes later, Grabner scored the first of his two goals, deking backhand-to-forehand and beating an out-stretched Lundqvist.
“There were a couple of things that could have gone wrong for us,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “There have been] some situations that have been costing us games lately. We bared down and made sure we stood our ground. We got some breaks and capitalized on some of them.”
The two-goal lead was short lived, as the Rangers’ Benoit Pouliot answered with a power-play goal 30 seconds later, kicking off three unanswered goals by the blueshirts. Derek Dorsett tied the score on the a harmless-looking shot that redirected off Thomas Hickey and past Evgeni Nabokov on the Rangers first shot of the second period. Derek Stepan put the Rangers ahead with a power-play goal eight minutes into the middle frame.
Down by one, the Islanders dug deep and got a timely contribution from Brian Strait, as the defensive defenseman scored his first career regular-season goal at 11:26 to knot the game at three. Strait’s goal was started by a nifty backhand pass, as Ryan Strome dished the puck to Bailey, who sent it to the point for the one-timer. Strome earned his first NHL point with the secondary assist on the play.
“For us to have success, we have to get secondary scoring,” Capuano said. “Especially on the road when they get the matchups they want… [Secondary scoring is] big for us and will hopefully continue as well.”
As crucial as the penalty kill was Friday night, the power play also came through in the clutch. The Islanders converted on a five-on-three opportunity early in the third, as Vanek redirected a Kyle Okposo point shot for the eventual winner.
The Islanders won’t have long to enjoy the win, as they refocus for a Saturday night contest against the Anaheim Ducks at Nassau Coliseum. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.
Notes: Cal Clutterbuck became the first Islanders player to convert a penalty shot against the Rangers… The Islanders last scored two shorthanded goals in the same period on Mar. 22, 2011… The Islanders won 30-of-53 faceoffs (57%)… Travis Hamonic led the Islanders with 25:10 TOI… Andrew MacDonald blocked a game-high five shots… Casey Cizikas returned to the lineup after missing two games with an injured jaw.
60 Kevin Poulin
61 Rick Nash – 21 Derek Stepan – 36 Mats Zuccarello
20 Chris Kreider – 16 Derick Brasard – 62 Carl Hagelin
19 Brad Richards – 10 J.T Miller – 67 Benoit Pouliot
22 Brian Boyle – 28 Dominic Moore – 15 Derek Dorsett
5 Dan Girardi – 27 Ryan McDonagh
17 John Moore – 6 Anton Stralman
4 Michael Del Zotto – 44 Justin Falk
30 Henrik Lundqvist
33 Cam Talbot