UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The New York Rangers absorbed two losses in 24 hours they hope to quickly forget.
If they miss the playoffs again, these defeats will be remembered for quite some time.
Radek Martinek and P.A. Parenteau both had a goal and assist during the Islanders’ four-goal second period, and they put the New York area-rival Rangers back into post-season peril with a 6-2 victory Thursday night.
New York was seemingly cruising for a playoff spot on the strength of an 8-1-1 spurt, but the loss against the Islanders coupled with a 1-0 loss at Buffalo on Wednesday, the Rangers have dipped to eighth in the Eastern Conference. They lead Carolina by three points with four games remaining. Carolina has five to play in the final 10 days.
“You have to have a short memory,” forward Ryan Callahan said. “If we dwell on it, we’re going to find ourselves in some trouble. This team has been good bouncing back from some hard games. It comes down to a four-game season, and we have to be ready.”
After Blake Comeau got the Islanders even 1-1 at 3:24, Martinek put them in front 33 seconds later. The Islanders then struck for two more goals 1:16 apart—the first by Jesse Joensuu at 13:28 and the second by Parenteau to turn it into a rout.
Matt Moulson scored his 31st goal of the season against backup Chad Johnson with 11:22 left, and Trevor Gillies made it 6-1 at 14:00.
Even a one-goal deficit seemed daunting to the Rangers, who have struggled to score and are now having defensive lapses, too. Coach John Tortorella refused to address anything about the game, saying his thoughts would be kept in house with his team.
The players, however, seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation—at least in their words if not in their play.
“We know we can play well. We already knew that,” forward Brian Boyle said. “We’ve had some success and we’ve had some downs in the season. If you want to be successful in the playoffs, like we think we can be, it’s a bad time to go through a couple of games like this.
“We’re not guaranteed anything.”
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist shook off an injury to his leg sustained Wednesday to make his career-high 22nd straight start, but allowed four goals on 22 shots in two periods. He was replaced by Johnson to begin the third.
More troubling is the Rangers have scored only five goals in five games, including two shutout losses and three 1-0 finishes. New York had scored 17 in its previous three games.
Vinny Prospal gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first and Brandon Prust scored in the final minute but that was all they could muster against the also-ran Islanders, who lost 3-2 at New Jersey on Wednesday. Prospal’s sixth snapped the Rangers’ goal-less drought at 127 minutes, 46 seconds—dating back to the first period of a 1-0 win at Boston last Saturday.
Al Montoya, who was drafted by the Rangers, stuck it to his former club by making 25 saves. It was a good bounce-back effort for Montoya, beaten 6-3 by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 15.
“This is a big win for us as a team, it’s a big win for me since getting pulled last game,” Montoya said. “Our penalty kill was unbelievable.
“We’re going to be something special really soon.”
Marian Gaborik assisted on Prospal’s goal and then was involved in an uncharacteristic play when he struck Islanders forward Frans Nielsen with a shoulder hit to the back from behind. Nielsen went facefirst into the boards by the penalty box and fell to the ice. Gaborik also went down and was then jumped by Martinek, who came to Nielsen’s defence.
Nielsen didn’t return because of a head injury, and Gaborik received four minutes in penalties.
The Islanders gave the Rangers plenty of chances to build a lead with a string of undisciplined penalties, including two that handed the Rangers a 5-on-3 advantage for over a minute in the first.
The Rangers were 0-for-6 on the power play in the first two periods and skated off after 40 minutes down 4-1 and outshot 22-16 in front of a large contingent of loud fans that tried to spur on the visitors.
“They came out a little bit flat and we played a good game overall,” said Parenteau, formerly of the Rangers. “We were a little undisciplined in the first and came back strong in the second and took it to them
“We want to play the spoiler role.”
Comeau started the barrage for the Islanders, who were eliminated Saturday. Martinek then fired in a shot from the right circle, off a cross-zone pass from Parenteau, to make it 2-1. Martinek ripped a drive from the right point that hit Joensuu and caromed past Lundqvist, and Parenteau swept in a loose puck to push the Islanders’ lead to three goals.
Notes: Lundqvist had allowed only two goals in four games. … D Dylan Reese had three assists. He entered with only one point this season. … The Islanders lost four of six to the Rangers this season. … Islanders D Ty Wishart was lost to a shoulder injury.