Islanders Defeat Rangers 3-0 in Biggest Win of the Season
It’s been almost 20 years since the Islanders and Rangers played this meaningful of a game, and it’s only January. The teams embarked on their second meeting of the year, after the Islanders won the first one in October by the score of 6-3. Halak made 40 saves that day, in his first big performance as an Islander. Now, the team has bonded and matured, and has claimed the first spot in the Metropolitan Divison, and showed exactly why they are in that place.
The first period was high flying off excitement. Both sides showed pressure at times, although the game was choppy with no real flow. There were big hits, most notably by JT Miller on Kyle Okposo, and big moments, but the teams left for first intermission tied. Mats Zuccarello hit the post early, and Nash later rang one off the post as well only to be followed by Derrick Brassard hitting two posts on a wide open net. The goaltenders proved to be the most valuable players for the teams in the period.
The line of Michael Grabner, Brock Nelson, and Nikolay Kulemin was the Isles’ best line early. They got to the dirty area, used their size and leverage to make plays and get pucks to the net. The fourth line, Cizikas, Clutterbuck, and Martin, was arguably the second best line, playing a big portion of the period including starting it. Boychuk and Leddy were solid as usual, minus letting Rick Nash walk in, as were Hamonic and de Haan. Hickey and Strait had their troubles and were trapped in their zone for most of the period.
The Isles came out on a mission in the second period. Dominating play, their hard work finally came to the forefront when Anders Lee knocked a puck home from out front. This came after a goal was disallowed due to goalie interference by Casey Cizikas (which was the right call). The team’s puck control has been coming off winning faceoffs, a category which they controlled all game.
The team really took off in the second half of the period. They netted two goals, one by Nikolay Kulemin on a good bounce off a Thomas Hickey rush, and Frans Nielsen with a shorthanded rush, where he decided to shoot on a two on one and it dribbled past Lundqvist. They exited the period up 3-0 and had :48 seconds left to kill on Hamonic’s penalty.
Anders Lee was the team’s best player in the second period. Including his goal, he came in on a two on one (not the shorthanded one) with Nielsen, only to be denied by a tremendous save by Lundqvist. Lee is showing why he is going to be here for a long, long time.
The Islanders would chase Henrik Lundqvist for the third period. Cam Talbot started it, in what seemed as a last minute effort to swing the momentum in the Rangers’ favor. Other than that, the third period was slow, with the Islanders mainly playing conservative to protect their lead. Jaroslav Halak came up big on a few saves, and played one heck of a game overall. The final score was 3-0 Islanders.
It’d be hard to argue that this wasn’t the Islanders’ biggest win of the season. There were doubters after the win in October, but they should all be silenced by now. Walking into a red-hot Rangers team, they proved why they are here to make the playoffs. They showed that they are resilient, and that they are not going away any time soon. It was a great all around game by everyone on the team, with my personal three stars being, in no order, Anders Lee, Jaroslav Halak, and Frans Nielsen. The team has to take this momentum into the rest of the week, where they face two more monsters in Montreal and Pittsburgh.