The Rivalry didn’t end in the Rangers’ favor on Thursday night when they fell 1-3 to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn, succumbing back to the win-lose pattern they’ve been carrying.
The sad part about the loss is that the blueshirts went in strong and were playing a great game until they lost the lead, due to a confusing call that sent rookie defenseman Dylan McIlrath into the penalty box.
A few things done differently could have granted the Rangers the win, but the few moments they let their guard down let the Islanders put themselves on top.
“McIlrath to the Box!”
McIlrath visited the penalty box three times on Thursday night, once for unsportsmanlike conduct and twice for roughing. Two of McIlrath’s penalties coincided with Islanders’ forward Matt Martin, who he was continuously having run-ins with throughout the game. Each time the duo united to fight, linesmen quickly pulled them apart.
The first two penalties, roughing in the first period and unsportsmanlike conduct in the second, were both the result of the two players looking to drop the gloves, both were delivering hard hits and pushing matches through the game.
The third penalty, for roughing against Brock Nelson, was the power play goal that gave the Isles the lead. The call, a confusing one made by the linesmen, has caused reason for some talk.
Early in the game forward Mats Zuccarello took a quick stop by Isles goaltender Jaroslav Halak and showered him with some ice in the process. Isles captain John Tavares quickly jumped to Halak’s defense by shoving at Zuccarello. This same move, not a penalty, was compared to McIlrath’s on Nelson after Nelson had poked Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with his stick. This made the call a confusing one, and ultimately led to the Islanders lead.
Despite the penalty sending McIlrath to the box on the confusing call, head coach Alain Vigneault defended the move, saying that McIlrath had been making an effort to protect his goaltender.
#NYR Vigneault on McIlrath penalty: "They poked Hank. I think he went to protect his goaltender."
— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) January 15, 2016
The inconsistency in calls when it came to this kind of move gave the Islanders their edge in the game. This isn’t the kind of penalty a team wants when a game is so close, especially when a similar move hadn’t been called earlier on the opposing team.
The refs had control in this aspect, controlling certain aspect in a game where both sides were playing hard and well.
Strong Play, but Missed Chances
There’s no denying the missed scoring chances that the Rangers were experiencing during the matchups, along with some quick saves by Halak.
Forward Chris Kreider had a new air to his play. It was easy to see that he was putting his all into his game, his speed was back and he was making quick strong hurdles towards the Isles net. Kreider had a few moments where a goal looked likely, and if the team had kept up their urgency the goal would have been likely.
Center Derek Stepan had also had many chances. A few loss opportunities had set Stepan back but he was making tough strides towards the net and was taking any shot that he could. The Rangers finished with 35 shots on goal, the efforts were there and the likelihood of their scoring only rises.
The second period Rangers goal that gave them the lead was a good shot by defenseman Marc Staal, who, with the help of Kreider and center Kevin Hayes, got the puck in the back of the net.
The Rangers led a strong game, the strongest on-ice presence they’ve shown in a long time. Almost everything about the Rangers play was in the right direction, aside from the end result. All that the Rangers can do now is channel their previous strong play into their game in Philadelphia against the Flyers and push for the win.
Thoughts for the Weekend
The Rangers take on two strong teams this weekend: the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
This weekend the lines are changing again, Vigneault has stated that rookie forward Oscar Lindberg will return to the lineup, but has not specified who will be scratched in his place. Vigneault has also stated that Dan Girardi, sidelined against the Islanders with a hand injury, is likely to return to play.
#NYR Notes: AV says it's likely Dan Girardi and Oscar Lindberg will play tomorrow; no final decision just yet though
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 15, 2016
Lindberg’s presence in the lineup will bring new air to the ice after he’s been dealing with being scratched in a few games. He’s a smart player who wins his faceoffs and is always by the net, having Lindberg back in could bring some more scoring opportunities to the team. The key is, no one has been scratched yet in Lindberg’s place, and depending on who that may be, it may cause different moves throughout the team.
Though Girardi hasn’t been on top of his game lately, he has the habit of being somewhat hit or miss, and his return could end up being a strong one on his end. Whether or not Girardi will take the ice might be still a little unknown, if he doesn’t return McIlrath will play again in his place.
Vigneault has also stated that backup goalie Antti Raanta will get the start in-goal on Sunday against the Capitals in Washington. This will give the Rangers edge in the game, mostly due to the fact that the Capitals are unaware of the goalie style that Raanta has and might struggle trying to figure out which shots to take. Raanta is a strong goalie, hes quick and makes great saves even when he’s on the spot.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 15, 2016
If the Rangers get on the ice in the right mindset and play as strong as they did against the Isles, they pose a good chance at grabbing the win against the Flyers, and hopefully the Capitals on Sunday. They’re getting the chances, the opportunities, and the right power on the ice, all they need now is the right mindset to get them what they need, the win.
Alyssa is a writer here at THW as a contributor for her hometown team, the New York Rangers. She is also currently pursuing a Communications degree. Follow her on twitter for some hockey talk and Rangers updates!