The New York Islanders took it to the New York Rangers in their last matchup of the 2010-11 season, earning a 6-2 win over their biggest rivals. Not only was it a great game to keep the rivalry going, but the Islanders helped play spoilers to the Rangers, who are fighting for every point in a last ditch effort to make it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“(The win) was huge for us,” Islanders forward Blake Comeau said. “(It’s a) big rivalry. Obviously, they’re a desperate team trying to get into the playoffs. We’re playing for pride, playing for each other and the logo. I thought it was a good effort for us tonight, and a great win.”
The victory was a complete team effort. There were six different goal scorers and 12 players who walked away with points. PA Parenteau, John Tavares and Travis Hamonic were all a +4 on the night, while call-up defenseman Dylan Reese had three assists.
The Islanders penalty kill was something else. The Rangers had seven power play opportunities, but failed to convert on even one – including 1:10 of a 5-on-3 doled out after Comeau went to the penalty box for cross checking at 16:58 of the first period.
Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers covers the puck against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on March 31, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Rangers 6-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“Our penalty kill was unbelievable, they might have had maybe six, seven, eight power plays but I don’t even know how many shots they had, maybe just a handful,” said goaltender Al Montoya. “Hats off to the penalty kill guys. That’s a lot of firepower and they do a great job.”
Rewind by 50 seconds, Parenteau was called for interference at 16:08 of the first. Then as Frans Nielsen found himself gaining yet another shorthanded breakaway, Marian Gaborik delivered a questionable check to Nielsen along the boards at 16:29, leaving one of the Islanders top penalty killers injured on the play.
Parenteau said he was “real upset” by the call on Gaborik. He got up close and personal with the hit Gaborik delivered as he was sitting just a few feet away (in the penalty box) on the other side of the glass.
“I thought it was real dirty,” Parenteau said. “I’m sure the league is going to look into it. I can’t believe it was only a four minute penalty but I was in the penalty box, I was right there and that was right in the number. Those are the hits we’re trying to get rid of in the game these days. I know it’s a skilled guy, Gaborik, he probably didn’t mean to. I don’t know, it’s not his trademark, but I do know it was a real dangerous hit.”
Dangerous as it was, Nielsen did not return to the game. Thus, the success on the penalty kill was a testament to the hard work that the Islanders young team put out on the ice. They started the game without Michael Grabner, who was awaiting the birth of his son, and played the majority of the game without Nielsen.
“(We’re) a team that steps up,” Montoya said. “It’s a different guy every night and that’s what makes a team successful. To see these guys come out, pay the price, do the little things, block the shots, get the pucks out, it goes a long way and I think that’s where we got our momentum from.”
At that point, the team already had a good thing going for them, but Parenteau said the team gained momentum as a result of the hit and the 5-on-3 kill.
“Yeah, I think we did,” Parenteau said. “Definitely, Fransie (Nielsen) is our best player all around. He’s been unbelievable this year and you don’t want to see him go down like that. I think we generated a lot after that hit.”
To the Islanders dismay, the Rangers got on the board first as Vinny Prospal scored the lone first period goal with a wrist shot at 14:25. But the Islanders came out to start the second period hungry, still fired up about the previous period and angry that they were behind by one goal.
Comeau wristed the puck to tie the score at 3:24 of the second and then just 33 seconds later, Radek Martinek’s slap shot flew past Henrik Lundqvist at 3:57 to send the Islanders ahead 2-1.
Matt Moulson #26 of the New York Islanders celebrates his third period goal with teammates P.A. Parenteau #15 and Travis Hamonic #36 in a game against the New York Rangers on March 31, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jesse Joensuu scored at 13:28, tipping in Martinek’s snipe from the point, and brought the Isles ahead 3-1. At 14:44, Parenteau scored a nice backhander, which would send the Islanders into the second intermission with a 4-1 lead.
To start the third period, Rangers head coach John Tortorella replaced Lundqvist with Chad Johnson, but Matt Moulson still found the back of the net with a tip-in at 8:38 of the third, while Trevor Gillies scored the team’s sixth goal (the second NHL goal of his career) at 14:00.
Brandon Prust closed out the night 6-2 with a goal at 19:46.
Despite letting up two goals, Montoya still made 25 saves on the 27 shot effort, fully redeeming himself after being pulled from the team’s last meeting (March 15), where the Islanders lost in a 6-3 decision.
“He made some big saves when he had to,” said Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano. “I thought for the first 8-10 minutes we were really good. I thought Lundqvist made some big saves on some rebounds there, and he came up big. We were finally able to get a few goals, but they kept battling hard. It was a good hockey game. We were fortunate to get timely goals.”
Notes: Islanders captain Doug Weight joined the Islanders coaches behind the bench. With a goal and an assist, Parenteau surpassed the 50 point mark (with 51), while Moulson reached the 50 points. Parenteau is just one goal shy of the 20-goal milestone.
Grabner missed his second straight game patiently waiting for his son to be born. In the second period, Grabner announced via Twitter that his son, named Aidan Johann, had been born. He posted that the "water bug" was 9 lbs. and 20 inches. Mom and baby are doing well.