A memorable experience at Yankee Stadium ended on a sour note for the Islanders, who dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Over 50,000 fans braved the frigid temperatures to watch the heated rivals in the first outdoor game in Islanders history. Brock Nelson gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead late in the second period, but two unanswered goals by the Rangers, including Daniel Carcillo’s game-winner at 4:36 of the third period, secured the win for the Rangers.
“As big and as great as an experience was… it’s tough to look at the big picture [when you lose],” John Tavares said. “We played well, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get the points we needed.”
The choppy ice disrupted many developing passing plays and in the end it was a simple play that won the game. Dominic Moore put a low, hard shot off Evgeni Nabokov’s far pad, which sent a rebound out into the slot for a driving Carcillo, who made no mistake potting the winner.
“They threw a puck to the net, we took a bad route behind the net, they get the rebound and it’s in [our] net,” head coachJack Capuano said. “We got away from are game a little bit. We had six shots in the third period. I wanted to see a little bit more and we didn’t do it.”
The Islanders were outshot 14-6 in the third period, but Nabokov kept them in the game right to the end. The 37-year-old goalie looked sharp in his first start since suffering a groin injury on Jan. 6, stopping 32-of-34 shots en route to being named the game’s second star. His counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist, made 30 saves in the win.
The strong play of both goalies kept the game scoreless until late in the second period, before the teams traded goals in the final 1:27 of play. First, a falling Cal Clutterbuck swept the puck into the slot, where Matt Donovan touched the puck over to Nelson for his tenth goal of the season. The lead was short-lived, as Benoit Pouliot tied the score 40 seconds later.
“That’s a tough one to give up and we have to do a better job [on the shift after a goal],” Tavares said. “We played well that period to get that first goal. We have to be harder on pucks and be better by our goaltender.”
Despite the loss, the Islanders gave the outdoor experience positive reviews. Tavares said he’d be okay playing every game outdoors, while others fondly described the dueling chants, throwback feel and overall atmosphere.
“You never really know [how it's going to be] until you’re out there and you see that great atmosphere,” Nabokov said of the experience. “I loved every second of it.”
The Islanders and Rangers will meet again Friday night at Madison Square Garden for their third meeting in 11 days and the final game of their season series. Puck drop from the Garden is at 7:00 p.m.
NOTES: The temperature was listed at 22-degrees for puck drop, but with wind chill, it felt like seven degrees… Andrew MacDonald led the Islanders with 24:15 TOI… John Tavares (22:29), Kyle Okposo (20:40) and Thomas Vanek (20:12) played over 20 minutes… Lubomir Visnovsky blocked a team-high four shots… Vanek took a team-high five shots.