Isles trounce Rangers, ending skid
The New York Islanders entered their extended hiatus for the All-Star break and the NHL’s bye week by avenging a pair of recent defeats, ending a three-game losing streak.
Josh Bailey delivered one of two power-play goals for the Isles and added a pair of assists, as the Brooklyn/Long Island-based franchise knocked off against their nemeses, the New York Rangers, 4-2, Tuesday night in front of 17,276 fans at Madison Square Garden.
“We needed this win before the break and we went out and got it,” said team captain Anders Lee, who gave the Isles a commanding 3-0 lead midway through the second period of the team’s last game Feb. 1 against Vancouver at the Barclays Center.
Facing a potential third loss to the Blueshirts in the past nine days, the Isles made sure they got off to a strong start in their pre-break finale.
Bailey tallied off feeds from rookie Noah Dobson and veteran forward Derick Brassard at 13:35 of the opening period, and Anthony Beauvillier followed with the Isles’s second consecutive power-play goal exactly three minutes later to make it 2-0 in favor of the visitors.
“We had a great start. We controlled a lot of the play,” noted Lee as the Isles ended an 0-2-1 skid that included a 6-2 thumping at the hands of the Rangers on Jan. 13 and last Thursday’s 3-2 home loss to the Blueshirts.
Brock Nelson made it 4-0 with his team-leading 20th goal of the year and fifth in the past six contests at 3:13 of the third period before the Rangers staged a late rally behind tallies from Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider.
“Couple of tough goals today,” said Rangers netminder Alexandar Georgiev, who had stifled the Isles in both meetings last week. “They managed to score their goals and shut us down pretty good.”
Most of the shutting down came courtesy of Isles goalie Thomas Greiss, who made 40 saves to improve to 14-7-1 on the season.
“Thomas was great tonight, really big,” Lee said. “When they had those pushes, he made some huge saves, some extended zone time he was right on top of them. He made the game for us tonight.”
Mathew Barzal added two assists for the Isles, who completed a brutal stretch of seven games in 10 days before their well-deserved break.
“I’m ecstatic with the two points,” Isles Head Coach Barry Trotz said.
“We were exhausted, and we had to battle through it. It was huge for our psyche and brain. We’ve had so many games in a short period of time. We were mentally and physically fatigued. The break’s going to do us good.”
The Isles, who have gone 13-12-3 since having their franchise-record, 17-game points streak stopped in Anaheim Nov. 25, stand eight points behind first place Washington in the Metropolitan Division standings at the season’s unofficial midway point.
The team is also four points behind second-place Pittsburgh with one game in hand.
More important than improving their place in the standings, however, was bolstering the Isles’s collective state of mind with nearly two weeks off ahead of them.
“If we lost that game in any way, shape or form, I think it would’ve been a big punch to the stomach,” Trotz said. “But we didn’t and we’re going to have a good break now, and a well-deserved rest.”
Isle Have Another: The Isles, who have had the least power-play opportunities in the league this year, were in the midst of a brutal 2-for-29 slump with the man advantage before going 2-for-2 versus the Blueshirts Tuesday. “Like anything you’re going to go through your highs and lows,” Bailey said. “To get rewarded with a couple tonight. It was big for us and got us going in the right direction.”
Former Islander Ryan Strome scored an apparent goal midway through the third period that would have cut the Isles’s advantage to 3-1, but the goal was ultimately disallowed via video replay after the Rangers were deemed to be offside on the play. “It’s huge,” Bailey said of the reversal. “Our video coaches [Matt de Mado and Corey Smith] do a great job … It’s potentially a turning point in the game and we end up getting the goal turned back. It was huge for us.”
Following their return to the ice Feb. 1 at Barclays, the Isles will host two more games in Brooklyn, on Feb. 4 versus Dallas and on Feb. 6 versus Los Angeles.
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