The Fifth Edition of the Battle of the Big Apple lived up to all the hype, as it had all the physical intensity, defensive play and hustle that turn regular people into fans of the National Hockey League. In this chapter it was the New York Islanders (26-27-8) with a 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Rangers (38-16-5).
Helping to lead the Islanders to the all-important two points was keeper Evgeni Nabokov, who was extremely sharp considering he had just recovered from the flu. Nabokov made 33 saves, including making a stellar poke check in the shootout to help the Isles get closer to that eighth and final playoff spot.
Leading the way on the offense was winger P.A. Parenteau, who continues to shine against his former team. Parenteau scored twice to now have 16 points (7 goals /8 assists) in the last 11 games against the Rangers.
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano has been putting out a call for more physical play from his team, and he got it as at the 2:24 into the first period Matt Martin and Stu Bickel dropped gloves, and exchanged blows.
Things remained physical between the two teams, as one could tell that both squads wanted the two points badly tonight. It was the Islanders though adding onto their NHL block shots stats, combined with the play of Nabokov that helped gain the victory.
Nabokov had a huge pad save in the first period, and that positive momentum eventually went to Matt Moulson (26) who scored with 6:07 in the first. Parenteau made it 2-0 on a wrister at the 8:42 mark, as the Islanders had two goals on four shots on the cage.
The Rangers didn’t go away without a fight though, as Marc Staal (2) scored on a power play goal at 12:47 to make the game 2-1 at the end of the first period.
Parenteau (14) gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead, on a wicked slap shot at the 8:11 mark in the second period. The Islanders top line of Parenteau, Moulson and John Tavares was on fire, combining for six points in the game.
In addition to the two Parenteau goals, Moulson finished the night with two points (one goal / one assist) while Tavares had two assists in the game. Moulson also helped the Isles in the shootout frame, but before getting to that-the Rangers needed a rally in order to get to the extra session.
Momentum did start to swing the way of the Rangers, as sniper Marian Gaborik (28) had a beautiful backhander at the 11:49 mark to make the Isles lead 3-2. Gaborik now has four goals in the season series on Long Island, as the Blueshirts sniper has gone 18-12-30 in 26 games played against the Islanders. Derek Stephan (13) gave the Rangers a vital point, while tying the game on a power play writer at the 16:40 mark.
As Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum began to rock with dueling chants of Lets’ Go Rangers-Let’s Go Islanders-the guys in Orange and Blue began to step things up as blocks by Frans Nielsen, Andrew MacDonald and Mark Streit helped to lead the Isles to the eventual shootout frame.
The shootout was certainly a thriller, as the action had fans on the edge of their seats. Nielsen and Gaborik both opened the extra sessions scoring to keep things notched up after the first round. After misses by John Tavares and Ryan Callahan-P.A. Parenteau’s attempt was denied by Rangers keeper Martin Biron to keep the shootout alive.
Brad Richards was the next to try to give the Rangers the game-winner, but his backhanded attempt was stuffed by Nabokov. The Isles sent out Matt Moulson, who scored to give the Orange and Blue the edge in the shootout.
With the game on the line Rangers head coach John Tortorella sent out John Mitchell, whose shot was denied by Nabokov as the Islanders skated away with two vital points.
Up next for the Isles is an all-important road trip starting on Sunday, as the guys take on the Ottawa Senators. The Islanders/Senators game is set to air on the MSG Plus network, with face-off scheduled for 5:00 p.m.
Meanwhile the Rangers will get no chance to rest, as they will play in the second part of back-to-back games. The Blueshirts will return home to Madison Square Garden to take on the Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers/Sabres game is set to air on the MSG network with face-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Welcome to the NHL: Islander forward Casey Cizikas made his NHL debut, wearing the number 53, while logging 11:33 total-ice time including vital minutes on the power play as well as helping to lead the physical play with two hits in the game.
Written on February 25, 2012
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