NEW YORK – Without watching a minute of action, it was easy to tell which New York team came out on top in the first half of a home-and-home series between the Islanders and Rangers.
All it took was a glimpse at the post-game reactions.
While the Islanders celebrated a team effort that produced a 2-1 road win on Wednesday night, Rangers coach John Tortorella unleashed an expletive-filled tirade after his offensively challenged club dropped its fifth straight (0-3-2).
The Rangers fell behind 1-0 in the first period and were outshot 10-3 by the Islanders, who were coming off a 7-1 loss at home to Florida on Monday night. The teams will meet again Thursday night on Long Island.
“The thing that’s unacceptable about tonight’s game, and we’re trying to stay positive around here, trying to work our way through it, but when we play like that for 20 minutes in a game like this in a back-to-back situation, it’s unacceptable,” Tortorella said. “There has to be something done, and we’ll see along the way before (Thursday) night’s game. We’ll see where we go with them.
“It’s just simply unacceptable how we started that game. I wish I could give you an explanation about it. I can’t.”
Tortorella then smacked a chair and stormed out of the interview room.
Dwayne Roloson made 25 saves, and Jon Sim and Blake Comeau scored for the Islanders, who won one of six meetings between the rivals last season. They are already 2-0 against the Rangers this season.
The steady Roloson was 55 seconds away from his first shutout in a year when Enver Lisin brought the Rangers within 2-1. Roloson has gone 71 games since he blanked Vancouver while with Edmonton on Dec. 13, 2008.
“I don’t care if we win 10-9 or 11-10 or whatever, as long as we win the hockey game,” Roloson said. “We were doing the little things that we had to do to win in the first period and we continued that all the way through for 60 minutes.”
He was helped by the Rangers, who scored two goals or fewer for the seventh straight game and for the 17th time in 21 contests.
Sim scored in the second period, and Comeau provided much-needed insurance when he made it 2-0 with 3:10 left in the game.
Roloson was pulled Monday after allowing five goals on 23 shots and suggested the Islanders might have been flat because of the anticipated series with the Rangers. The Islanders are 4-6 in their last 10.
“It could’ve been a possibility, but fortunately for us we came back and bounced back,” he said.
Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves for the Rangers, who are 1-6-2 in their past nine while scoring only 15 goals.
“I have been feeling pretty good lately, but it hasn’t been enough,” Lundqvist said. “It has been a 2-1 game or 3-2. We just come up short every time. It is very frustrating.”
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead in a first period in which they carried the play. Defenceman Jack Hillen skated from Lundqvist’s left behind the net and out the other side. He sent the puck toward the crease, where it caromed off Sim’s right leg and sailed over Lundqvist’s shoulder with 5:35 left. The goal was upheld following a brief video review.
The Islanders had a 10-1 shots advantage then.
“We’ve just got to build off the win,” Sim said. “We played three strong periods … just keep doing the small things. Those paid off, and hopefully they can pay off at home.”
Sean Avery was the Rangers’ catalyst in the second period, drawing Hillen into matching roughing penalties 27 seconds in and then goading Roloson into a pair of infractions at 6:04 that gave the Rangers their first power play.
Roloson held the puck and absorbed a slight jab from Avery’s stick after the whistle. Roloson angrily responded with a swinging slash to Avery’s leg, prompting the agitating forward to knock over the goalie. Avery and Roloson each earned roughing penalties, and Roloson was also called for slashing.
Michael Del Zotto nearly got the Rangers even during the advantage, but his shot ricocheted off the crossbar.
The Islanders countered with a prime short-handed chance after Ales Kotalik, a forward playing the left point on the power play, mishandled a pass at the blue line. Frans Nielsen raced up ice alone, but was turned aside by Lundqvist.
“The good thing is we do play them tomorrow,” Rangers captain Chris Drury said. “We don’t have to wait around here for days to think about it or talk about it.”
NOTES: The Islanders were 1-5 against the Rangers last season. … Islanders D Bruno Gervais, who was a minus-2 in the loss to Florida, was scratched. LW Jeff Tambellini was benched for a third straight game. … The Rangers recalled D Bobby Sanguinetti from Hartford (AHL), but he didn’t play.