Comeau and Hillen score Islanders goals; Zherdev, Drury, Gomez, Naslund score for Rangers
By Tom Liodice
Four different Rangers scored, as the New York Rangers defeated the Islanders, 4-2, in front of a sold-out crowd at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night.
"There wasn't anybody who had an off night tonight," Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon said. "From top to bottom we were pretty solid."
Nikolai Zherdev got the Rangers on the board first just 8:33 into the opening frame for his 18th goal of the season. Zherdev stole the puck off a Tim Jackman giveaway just inside the Islanders blueline, skated in on goal and fired a wrist shot past Islanders goaltender Yann Danis to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Blake Comeau finished off the physical tone of the first period, which saw 31 hits overall, delivering a big open-ice hit on Sean Avery, who made his return to the Rangers.
"You just want to play hard against him, he's a player that wants to get involved and get under guys' skin," Comeau said. "I know everyone was playing physical with everyone on that team."
Comeau brought the Islanders even with the Rangers 5:37 into the second period, after taking a Dean McAmmond pass and breaking in on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Comeau snuck a backhander through Lundqvist's legs for his fifth goal of the season, and the game was tied, 1-1.
Joel Rechlicz, who was called up from Bridgeport earlier on Thursday, was credited with a secondary assist—his first NHL point.
"I thought Joel, for the limited amount of time he spent in the American League, to come in and play a NHL game in this atmosphere handled it well," Gordon said.
Chris Drury reclaimed the lead for the Rangers 9:41 into the second period on a power-play goal. With Trent Hunter in the penalty box serving a tripping penalty, Drury one-timed a Nik Antropov pass past Danis right skate for his 17th goal of the season and the 2-1 Rangers lead.
Scott Gomez gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead just 49 seconds into the third period. The play unfolded when Andy Hilbert and McAmmond collided with each other in the Rangers zone. Gomez then started a 2-on-1, passing off to Zherdev, who returned the feed and one-timed the puck past Danis.
"I thought we were doing some good things. I thought we were pressing pretty hard," McAmmond said. "That one goal they scored, I think it was the go-ahead to 3-1, I was on the ice and collided with Andy (Hilbert), we were on actually on a rush, but it turned into a 3-on-1 rush for them."
Jack Hillen answered right back for the Islanders at the 3:44 mark of the third period to cut the Rangers lead to 3-2. Hillen took a Comeau pass and broke down the left side of the Rangers zone. The Islanders defenseman cut in front of Lundqvist and slid the puck between the Rangers netminder's legs. It was Hillen's first career NHL goal. His first NHL point came against the Rangers last season.
Markus Naslund gave the Rangers their second two-goal lead of the night on a power play goal 13:25 in the third period. With Andrew MacDonald in the box serving a delay of game minor, Naslund fired a slapshot from the Islanders blue line which looked to go wide, but the puck deflected off of Radek Martinek's stick and changed directions. The puck threw Danis off-guard and found its way into the back of the net for the 4-2 Rangers lead.
Three Stars of the Game: 1. Chris Drury: Goal, assist 2. Scott Gomez: Game winning goal, +2 3. Blake Comeau: Goal, assist
Slapshots: Islanders outshot the Rangers 30-23...Radek Martinek led all Islanders with 5 shots on goal...Joel Rechlicz skated in his NHL debut, logging 3:52 of ice time, 1 assist and 3 hits...Rechlicz is the 10th player to make his NHL debut this season with the Islanders...Islanders outhit the Rangers, 39-36...The Rangers hold the all-time series advantage over the Islanders, with a record of 102-98-19-3...Only four players in the lineup have not played with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in their careers (Streit, Hilbert, Bailey, McAmmond)...Mark Streit, Trent Hunter, and Dean McAmmond wore the "A" as alternate captain