NEW YORK, N.Y. – New York’s Rangers and Islanders put up 11 goals one night and only two the next.
That was just fine for Rangers coach John Tortorella, who was happy and relieved his club took four points from the team that has the fewest in the NHL.
“No matter where these teams are in the standings, they are always screwed-up games when the Rangers and the Islanders play,” Tortorella said after the Rangers’ 2-0 victory Friday night. “I thought we handled ourselves very well.”
That has been the standard lately for the Rangers, who have won six of eight overall and improved to 7-0 in the second half of back-to-back games. Going back to last season, they are 16-2-2 in such contests.
Henrik Lundqvist earned his fourth shutout of the season, and Marc Staal scored in the second period to help the Rangers complete this home-and-home sweep. Brian Boyle sealed it with an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds left.
One night after the Rangers recovered from a pair of blown two-goal leads in a 6-5 win on Long Island, the teams engaged in a defensive struggle. The Rangers won despite recording only 21 shots on Dwayne Roloson, largely because they gave up a season-low 17 to the Islanders.
“I told him after the game that he gave us a great opportunity,” 20-year-old Islanders forward John Tavares said of the 41-year-old Roloson. “We can’t ask for more from him than what he gave us.”
Lundqvist earned the victory Thursday night, after relieving backup Martin Biron in the second period, stopping nine of 11 shots.
“They keep coming. They never give up,” Lundqvist said. “I felt like we were the better team the whole game, but it was a one-goal game.”
Roloson got the nod for the Islanders on Friday after being held out by interim coach Jack Capuano for four straight games in favour of Rick DiPietro.
It didn’t help as the Islanders lost for the 16th time in 17 games (1-13-3), including two in a row after snapping their 14-game losing streak. The Islanders were 0 for 2 on the power play, making them 0 for 32 over the past 10 games. Capuano fell to 1-4-2 since taking over for fired coach Scott Gordon.
“I’m not going to wait around with the same personnel,” Capuano said about the dormant power play. “If guys aren’t going to do it, other guys are going to play. I don’t mind not scoring on the power play, as long as they’re doing what we ask them to do. If it’s five defencemen, or five rookies, it doesn’t matter at this point.”
The Islanders nearly tied it in the third period, but defenceman Jack Hillen’s drive from the left point hit the post.
In a scoreless first period that featured as many penalties as shots on goal—nine each—the Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead for the second straight night.
After denying the Islanders’ clearing attempt at the blue line, the Rangers worked the puck around the zone to set up Staal’s fourth goal of the season. A final pass from rookie Derek Stepan led to Staal’s rising slap shot that beat Roloson for a power-play goal at 4:33.
A screen by Alex Frolov helped Staal’s shot to sneak through.
“I didn’t see it. It was a nice shot,” Roloson said. “You’re lucky if it hits you.”
The Rangers had two other quality scoring chances late in the period, but drives by Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov struck posts behind Roloson three minutes apart.
The Islanders nearly answered after Dubinsky’s short-handed drive when they raced the puck back up ice. Tavares fired a shot from in tight that slammed off Lundqvist’s pad and was pushed out of harm’s way.
“When you have a shutout it means you did a lot of good things. The team did well,” Lundqvist said. “It was the easiest shut out this year.”
It didn’t take long for the rematch to get chippy. Ryan Callahan was whistled for elbowing Frans Nielsen 12:42 in. During the delayed penalty, Islanders forward Jesse Joensuu went after Callahan.
Instead of the Islanders receiving a power play for Callahan’s initial penalty, Joensuu left the Islanders short-handed as he was given an instigator penalty, a fighting major—along with Callahan—a misconduct, and an additional two minutes for starting a fight while wearing a visor.
The only consolation for the Islanders from that exchange was that the Rangers failed to capitalize. The Rangers were also denied after Jon Sim was called for the first of his two goalie-interference penalties. The second one led to Staal’s power-play goal.
NOTES: The Islanders’ previous low-shot game this season was 19 in a 5-1 loss at Los Angeles on Nov. 13. The Rangers’ fewest allowed this season was 20 in a 3-2 home loss to Boston on Nov. 17. … The Islanders are 0-12-2 when giving up the first goal. They have been shut out twice. … Lundqvist has 28 NHL shutouts.