Simon was in the building for the first meeting between the bitter area rivals since his two-handed stick attack against Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg, but he could only watch his Islanders teammates lose 2-1 in overtime Sunday.
“Obviously it’s a very intense rivalry but I don’t think by any means the Chris Simon incident was a part of this,” Islanders forward Ryan Smyth said.
Michael Nylander deflected Brendan Shanahan’s shot late in overtime to give the Rangers their third straight 2-1 win over the Islanders in 21 days.
The Rangers scored the deciding power-play goal in the March 8 victory after Simon struck Hollweg with a swinging stick to the upper body that caused a cut on Hollweg’s chin. Simon tried to meet Hollweg on Saturday night to apologize, but that wasn’t possible because the Rangers had a team dinner after arriving on Long Island following a win at Boston.
Hollweg declined to see Simon, who is eight games into his suspension, on a game day, focusing instead on the latest chapter of hockey’s version of New York-New York.
“There is no Simon-Hollweg thing. None,” said Shanahan, injured for the two previous Islanders meetings. “The games are too important, and that business has taken care of itself. It wasn’t talked about in this dressing room and I can guarantee it wasn’t talked about in their dressing room. It’s about getting points.”
Nylander planted himself in front of Rick DiPietro during an overtime power play and knocked the puck in with only 48.9 seconds showing. It gave the Rangers their fifth straight victory and moved them one point ahead of idle Tampa Bay into sixth place in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff chase.
The Islanders got a point and jumped into a three-way tie for eighth place with Montreal and Carolina.
“You can’t be satisfied,” Smyth said. “We’ve got seven games remaining and we’ve got to find a way through to capitalize and get two (points) and minimize other teams getting points.”
Unlike Saturday when the Rangers had to kill off a penalty for over a minute in overtime, they went on the power play with 1:13 remaining when Islanders defenceman Sean Hill hooked Jaromir Jagr. After Nylander netted his 23rd of the season, Hill jawed at the officials when he came out of the box.
“I wouldn’t want to be in that position to decide the game,” Hill said. “I felt like I got my stick in the right place and let go of it.”
DiPietro was sharp in making 32 saves, but he angrily backhanded the puck out of his net as the Rangers celebrated their sixth 2-1 victory in 11 games – including three over the Islanders – at centre ice.
Henrik Lundqvist is a big reason why the Rangers completed consecutive 2-1 road wins on back-to-back days. He stopped 34 shots after making 40 saves Saturday against the Bruins.
“I want to play in a game where every save means the difference in winning or losing,” Lundqvist said. “I love 2-1 games. I hate 6-5 games. It’s challenging, and you know you have to stay focused.”
Colton Orr, Hollweg’s hard-hitting linemate, scored his second NHL goal and first in 18 games in the second period. Alexei Yashin tied it for the Islanders with a power-play goal in the third.
Yashin scored in the waning seconds of the Islanders’ eighth power play at 7:37. Tom Poti let go a shot from the left circle that Yashin got his stick on in the crease. With another whack, Yashin nudged the puck between Lundqvist’s pads – leaving the Rangers goalie with his head thrust upward in disgust.
The Islanders cashed in just before the back half of their second 5-on-3 advantage ran out. They were up two men for only 14 seconds this time, following one that lasted 1:32 in the middle frame.
Jason Blake was left shaking his head moments after the goal when his hard drive hit a Rangers player and caromed hard off the right post behind Lundqvist, sending a loud ping and an audible groan through the arena.
He compounded the problem by taking a high-sticking penalty off the ensuing faceoff that turned into a Rangers’ 5-on-3 power play when Poti was called for hooking 51 seconds later. But the Rangers couldn’t capitalize.
The game was physical throughout, consistent with a matchup between heated adversaries playing for the seventh time and fighting to reach the postseason. There were no signs of lingering nastiness following Simon’s hit on Hollweg.
“We had enough shots to score a few more goals,” Yashin said. “Maybe we need to be more hungry in front of the net.”
Orr gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with 9:23 left in the second, jamming the puck past DiPietro at the left post after Blair Betts fed him a pass following an Islanders turnover behind the net.
Notes: Islanders RW Richard Zednik missed his second straight game for personal reasons. RW Miroslav Satan returned to the lineup one day after his streak of 305 games played was snapped Saturday when he sat out because of personal reasons. . . . The Rangers had killed 38 of 39 short-handed situations, including all eight Saturday, when Yashin scored. . . . The Rangers have gone 10 straight games without allowing a first-period goal and have led 1-0 in nine of 10. . . . The Islanders won the first four games of the season series that concludes April 3.