Things looked promising for the Islanders after two periods of play Monday night at Madison Square Garden, but the Rangers struck four times in the final period to come away with a 5-4 victory.
Nine different players scored in an extremely physical game. The Islanders out-hit the Rangers 35-25, but it wasn’t enough as the Islanders fell to 1-2-0 against the Rangers in 2008-09. The Rangers out-shot the Islanders 37-24.
"The Rangers played really well," said Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon. "I thought they played with a lot of speed. I thought they won a lot of battles. That’s the best that I’ve seen them play against us. We didn’t generate enough on our attack. We were too deliberate coming through the neutral zone and didn’t skate with speed. We have a lot of things we didn’t do well in different areas. But you have to give credit where credit is due."
The line of Mike Comrie, Blake Comeau and Kyle Okposo continued to produce for the Islanders, chipping in with three goals. Comrie finished the game with a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick," compiling a goal, an assist and a fight.
"It’s been a few games now that they’ve been able to generate some offense," said Gordon of the Comrie-Comeau-Okposo line. "They complement each other and that’s what we need."
Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves to earn the victory for the Rangers, while Islanders netminder Joey MacDonald stopped 32 shots.
"They threw a lot pucks on net and in the first couple of periods I had a few bounces go my way," said MacDonald. "In the third period, they scored a goal off (Markus) Naslund’s chest and another changed directions off a shin pad. We battled hard. When you score four goals you should win a hockey game. We had some bad bounces and some bad luck and there’s not much you can do about it."
In the game’s opening eight minutes, two fights broke out on separate shifts. It began with a heavyweight match between Mitch Fritz and Colton Orr. Both players landed significant blows before tumbling to the ice.
Just 1:38 later, Comrie and Nigel Dawes dropped the gloves for an extended fight. Comrie ended the bout with a series of upper cuts before the linesmen broke it up.
With 4:56 remaining in the first period, the Islanders struck first on the scoreboard. Trent Hunter forechecked hard to steal the puck away from the Rangers defense. Hunter made a short pass to Mike Sillinger, who lifted the puck over the glove of Lundqvist.
The Rangers evened the score at 1-1 at 8:29 of the second period. With the Islanders on a delayed penalty, Nikolai Zherdev made a cross-crease pass to Scott Gomez for a tap-in goal.
With 11.7 seconds left in the second period, the Islanders took a 2-1 lead. Freddy Meyer flung the puck to the net and Okposo tipped it past Lundqvist for his fourth goal of the season.
A defensive battle quickly changed in the final 20 minutes of the game. Six goals were score in the third period.
Just 40 seconds into the third period, the Islanders received a huge blow when Hunter left the game after being hit cleanly by Ryan Callahan. Unfortunately for Hunter, a door opened and he violently slammed into the edge of the boards. Hunter did get up and leave on his own power, but did not return to the game.
"Hunter is okay," said Gordon. "He doesn’t have a concussion or anything like that. He’s a little banged up and we’ll know more tomorrow."
To make matters worse, the Rangers scored just seconds later, evening the score at 2-2 on Petr Prucha’s goal, nine seconds after the puck dropped.
The Rangers took a 3-2 advantage with 2:08 gone by in the third period when Michal Rozsival’s wrist shot eluded MacDonald.
But the Islanders countered 27 seconds later. Comrie sent a puck back to the point to Mark Streit, who ripped a shot wide of the net. Blake Comeau controlled the carom and slipped in by Lundqvist for a 3-3 game.
At 7:12 of the third period, the Rangers took a 4-3 lead when Gomez’s pass from behind the net banked off Markus Naslund and over the goal line.
The Rangers took the first two-goal lead of the game on Dawes’ goal with 4:49 to play in the third period.
Comrie scored with 18.7 seconds left to play in the game with MacDonald pulled to cut the lead to 5-4.
Official Three Stars of the Game
1. Petr Prucha: 1 goal on five shots 2. Scott Gomez: Goal and an assist, 7 shots 3. Ryan Callahan: 1 assist, 5 hits Honorable Mention: Mike Comrie: Contributed offensively with a goal and an assist and added a physical element with a fight and a team-leading five hits
Slapshots: Six Islanders had at least three hits--Trent Hunter, Bruno Gervais, Bill Guerin, Tim Jackman, Freddy Meyer, Mike Comrie...Doug Weight returned to the lineup after missing the past three games with a strained groin...Even with the return of Weight, Kyle Okposo kept his place at the point on the top power play unit....Andy Hilbert was placed on the injured reserve and will be out 2-4 weeks with a hairline fracture of the foot...Rick DiPietro (strained groin) is day-to-day.