The New York Rangers lost a thrilling game to the Islanders, 2-1, on a Kyle Palmieri goal with only 2:44 left. It was the Igor Shesterkin vs Ilya Sorokin show as both young Russian goalies put on a fabulous display with Sorokin just a little bit better. Ranger fans will complain about the officiating, but in the end, this was a great game between two very competitive teams.
These are not the Islanders who dropped out of the playoff race in mid-December. Finally, they are scoring and they never forgot how to play defense. Still, the Rangers were the better team for most of the game and but for Sorokin, the Blueshirts could have three or four goals.
Coach Gerard Gallant was pragmatic about the result. “I thought we played great. From start to finish I thought we played a great hockey game. Disappointed to lose 2-1, but you play like that most nights you’ll get success…it was a good hockey game, back and forth, two evenly matched teams, unfortunately they got the bounce at the end.”
It felt like a playoff game with great pace and a loud home crowd. Considering that the Rangers were overwhelmed by the same team last season, the improvement was notable. Playing at this level bodes well for the postseason.
Frank Vatrano made his Rangers debut and was noticeable, playing with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin. In fact, just 5:40 into his first game, it was Vatrano who passed up a shot and fed Panarin who had a wide open net. Only Sorokin made one of the best saves of the year, a lunging stick save that kept the game scoreless.
After the game, Vatrano was pleased, “It was great, especially to play a rivalry game on St. Patrick’s Day. It was a lot of fun. I wish we got the two points, but I think it was a good effort all around.”
The first period was scoreless, but ended with the Islanders on the power play when Barclay Goodrow was called for hooking Mathew Barzal.
The Islanders cashed in on the power just 49 seconds into the second period with one second left in the man advantage when Anders Lee scored in his sixth straight game. Barzal fed Lee who was open in the slot and he fired the puck past Shesterkin.
The Rangers evened it when Chris Kreider scored on the power play, his 40th of the season. Scott Mayfield had been called for interference at 11:53 and Kreider scored with just 15 seconds left and the second power play unit half on the ice.
Kreider was streaking down the wing and took a nice pass from Alexis Lafrenière for the goal.
The Rangers and Islanders exchanged chances in the third period with both goalies stopping breakaways.
The turning point came with under three minutes left when Oliver Wahlstrom elbowed Ryan Lindgren in the head. Lindgren was stunned and lost his stick, but had to defend. The Rangers were able to clear, but their change was disorganized and the Islanders were able to sustain the attack and scored when Ryan Pulock shot a fluttering puck at the goal and Kyle Palmieri was able to bat it into the net.
After the goal a furious Ryan Lindgren berated the referees for the uncalled elbow. It was hard to miss the blood trickling down his face.
The Blueshirts pulled Shesterkin with about 90 seconds left and kept the puck in the Islanders zone most of the remaining time, but were unable to convert.
Here is a video recap of the game:
Gallant admitted he was unhappy with the officiating, more with the calls against the Rangers than the non-calls. He said he didn’t see the elbow taken by Lindgren. After the game, Gallant called it a “coin toss” and no one should be unhappy with the result. It would have been nice to salvage one point, but they played hard and played well enough to win.