In the first game of a home-and-home series with the New York Rangers, the Islanders fell 6-5 to their cross-town rivals at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night. Twice the Islanders overcame a two-goal deficit. Rangers wing Marion Gaborik scored the game winner, recording a hat trick, with 5:25 left in regulation.
Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano blamed the loss on having too many defensive breakdowns, explaining that four goals were scored because the Islanders turned over the puck. The Isles had 25 giveaways to the Rangers five.
Referring to Gaborik after the loss, Capuano said, “Players like that are going to get their chances, so you just try to limit their chances. Whether we were physical enough on him or not, he had the opportunity twice in the paint to score a goal… we have to have a stick in space and have good sticks around it.”
Michael Grabner #40 of the New York Islanders scores his third period goal getting it past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers on December 2, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
After snapping their 14 game winless streak with a shutout over the New Jersey Devils on Black Friday, the Islanders had five days to prepare for their first game of the two-game series. While the Islanders were hoping to win and give their fans an exciting game, it’s doubtful any of the players thought there would be 11 goals scored before the end of three periods.
“It’s great to score, but this is the game we needed to have one of those games where we needed to keep the bad shots away from our net and find a way to keep it out,” Islanders forward John Tavares said. “That’s something that we’ve got to correct and keep doing those things offensively that worked for us tonight.”
Before Gaborik scored the Rangers game-winner, the Islanders had to fight back from a 5-3 deficit. Islanders forward Michael Grabner scored his third goal in four games (12:29), closing the gap 5-4, and Blake Comeau scored to tie the game at five (14:10). Comeau's was his first goal since he scored two against the Rangers at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 11.
But the Rangers would not stay down long. Brandon Prust scored at 13:21 of the second period and Gaborik opened the third period with his second goal at 3:31 after tallying a power play goal at 16:24 of the second. Three straight goals sent the Rangers ahead 5-3.
“(There were) a lot of swings,” is how Tavares described the game. “Sloppy play from both sides I think. Both coaches probably aren’t too happy about the way things went structure-wise. But it was an exciting game to play in obviously and the rivalry. But we, especially us, have got to sharpen up in some areas. Maybe it was the five days off that didn’t help, but we’ve got to be better than that for a full sixty.”
Blake Comeau #57 of the New York Islanders ties the score at five at 14:10 of the third period at the Nassau Coliseum on December 2, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. The Rangers defeated the Islanders 6-5. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
As if coming back from a two-goal deficit in the third period wasn’t entertaining and heart pounding enough for Islanders fans, Rangers forwards Erik Christensen and Ryan Callahan scored goals at 8:11 and 17:07 respectively for the 2-0 lead in the first period.
But enforcer Zenon Konopka scored the Islanders first goal (his first of the season) with 49 seconds left in the first period, adding a little momentum through to the second period. Matt Moulson scored at 9:18, tying the game at two, and Rob Schremp scored the Islanders third straight goal at 12:30 of the second, giving them their only lead of the game as they went ahead 3-2.
As a result, Rangers head coach John Tortorella opted to pull Martin Biron (3 goals, 18 saves) from the net in favor of Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed two goals and made nine additional saves.
“It’s brutal. It’s always tough, especially losing to these guys,” goaltender Rick DiPietro said after making 20 saves in his fourth straight start. “But we had a lead there. Once they switched goalies they kind of took it to us a little bit and had a couple of crazy bounces there tie it up. It just seemed like every time we seized momentum, there was a breakdown and they capitalized on it. Both teams fought hard, but at the end of the day a loss is a loss.”
Even though the Islanders fell 6-5, four Islanders earned two points. Tavares, PA Parenteau and Radek Martinek had two assists each, while Comeau had 1 goal and 1 assist for two points on the night.
“We played hard enough to get a win tonight,” said Schremp. “We had a goal go off our guy’s head and a couple bad breaks, so there’s nothing really you can do. I think we bring that same intensity tomorrow and I don’t think the misfortune is going to happen again.”
The Islanders and Rangers faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. Friday to close out the home-and-home series.
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