Rangers forward Rick Nash lurks in front of the Islanders net.
UNIONDALE, NY – In a playoff atmosphere before a sold-out crowd of 16,170 last night at the Nassau Coliseum, the crunch time heroics of Rangers forward Rick Nash were on display as he led the Rangers to a 2-1 overtime victory against their cross-town rival New York Islanders. Nash tied the game 1-1 at 14:37 of the 3rd period, and later setup the game winner by Marian Gaborik at 0:42 of overtime.
Gaborik’s 8th of the season came on the power play, with Michael Grabner sent off for hooking 0:21 in to the overtime period.
Both teams came out strong, and the play was up and down the ice at a fast pace for most of the night. Islanders forward Michael Grabner opened the scoring with his 10th goal of the season, burying a shot in the top right corner on a feed from Colin McDonald behind the net at 11:51 of the first period. Grabner played a strong game, registering 4 shots on goal. In the second period, Grabner used his speed to get around Rangers defenseman Roman Hamrlik, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Hamrlik played well in his Rangers debut, seeing 18 shifts for 15:48 of ice.
The Isles had a number of chances to build on their early lead, and would regret not being able to do so.
Josh Bailey found himself all alone in the high slot in the second period, but a hurried wrist shot was turned away with the blocker by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqist. Matt Moulson managed 3 shots on goal, including a partial breakaway that saw him sail a backhand high over the glove of Lundqvist at 11:40 of the second period.
The Islanders did not get a chance on the power play, the first time since January 7, 1989 that the Isles did not have a power play in a game against the Rangers. The Isles weren’t very happy about it.
“Maybe we’re wrong; maybe they played a real clean game… It’s very frustrating,” said Islanders forward Matt Martin.
Still, the Islanders aggressive penalty kill generated the better chances when Casey Cizikas was sent off for holding at 11:07 and Kyle Okposo went off for tripping at 16:05 of the second period. Lundqvist came up big for the Rangers stopping Martin on a short-handed breakaway, and Grabner on a great chance in front of the net with the Isles down a man. Lundqvist stopped 28 of 29 shots against the swarming Islanders.
While the Rangers were also playing with great intensity, they were having even more trouble getting a puck past Evgeni Nabokov- who turned away 35 of 27 shots. Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller were stopped on great chances in front of the net in the second period. In the third, Darroll Powe was all alone in front but couldn’t get it past the Islanders netminder. Nash made a particularly nice inside out move towards the net early in the third period, only to be turned away by Nabokov.
Nash’s persistence paid off when he finally broke through on the Nabokov with the tying goal late in the third, and later setting up the game winner in overtime. All of Nash’s 8 goals this season have come in the 3rd period.
“He’s an elite player, big and strong,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “You have to have an awareness when he’s on the ice and try to contain him.”
The Rangers take their 4-game winning streak back to Madison Square Garden to face-off against the Senators tonight, while the Islanders prepare to host the Capitals tomorrow afternoon.
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