The New York Islanders entered their third meeting in nine days against the New York Rangers seeking redemption to rid the sour taste of losing three straight games (0-2-1) and their first two meetings against their crosstown rival.
They did just that, as they topped the Rangers 4-2 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday evening. Josh Bailey's three-point night led the Isles offensively, while Thomas Greiss made 40 saves. Anthony Beauvillier Anders Lee and Brock Nelson also scored for the Isles, who netted a pair of power-play goals.
"I'm ecstatic with the two points," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We were exhausted, and we had to battle through it. It was huge for our psyche and brain. We've had so many games in a short period of time. We were mentally and physically fatigued. The break's going to do us good."
Video: Greiss, Bailey lead Islanders to 4-2 win vs. Rangers
The win was a morale booster for the Isles, who felt they got back on track after previously deviating from their identity of detailed and disciplined hockey. The win was an ideal sendoff as they enter All-Star break followed by their NHL mandated bye week. And with the playoff race already beginning to tighten, they were thrilled to grab two vital points against a divisional opponent.
"We needed this win before the break and we went out and got it," Lee said. "We had a great start. We controlled a lot of the play. They had sometimes with a good push, at the end of the second they had a good push and obviously at the end. We were in the box a little bit, but we pulled it out and it's what we needed."
Bailey opened up scoring at 13:35 of the first period as he tipped in Noah Dobson's initial point shot past Rangers netminder Alexandar Georgiev to put the Islanders on the board first and score their first power-play goal of the night.
Video: NYI@NYR: Bailey starts the scoring with deflection
Beauvillier's goal - also a power-play marker - came three minutes later and on the heels of a solid shorthanded stop by Greiss. On the flip side and from down low, Mathew Barzal (who had two assists) played the puck back to Beauvillier who had just hopped over the boards. Positioned in the high slot, Beauvillier rifled his shot bar down of Gerogiev's left shoulder at 16:35.
Lee extended the Isles lead 3-0 at 9:52 in the second period as the captain fired a blistering one timer past Georgiev. The goal was set up resulted from a tremendous forechecking effort by Barzal and Jordan Eberle to gain possession and send the feed just north of the left faceoff circle.
The Rangers appeared to cut the deficit down to two goals as former Islander Ryan Strome circled around the cage and buried the rebound during a scuffle in front of the net. The Isles immediately challenged the goal as the entry appeared to be offsides and upon review, the officials overturned the goal to restore the Isles lead to three.
"It's huge," Bailey said. "Our video coaches [Matt de Mado and Corey Smith] do a great job. They are all over that stuff, our coaches are all over that stuff as well. It's potentially a turning point in the game and we end up getting the goal turned back. It was huge for us."
Video: NYI@NYR: Nelson pots Bailey's perfect feed
To boost the Isles momentum, Nelson cushioned the Isles' lead to 4-0 at 3:13 into the final frame. After Nelson won an offensive zone faceoff draw, the puck shot out to Bailey who found Nelson across the crease for an easy one timer.
Despite being down by four goals and without star player Artemi Panarin, the Rangers refused to go away quietly as they scored two power-play goals on a Scott Mayfield spearing double-minor. Greiss' shutout was busted at 13:45 as the Rangers got on the board with a power-play goal from Pavel Buchnevich. With 13 seconds left on the second minor, the Rangers got their second goal of the night from Chris Kreider.
"We took the penalty and then all hell breaks loose after that," Trotz said. "That's on us."
Despite the scare, the Isles held on for a regulation win, their first in four games.
POWER PLAY SCORES TWICE:
For the first time since Dec. 21, the Isles scored two power-play goals. Across the NHL, the Isles have had the fewest power-play opportunities in the NHL with 113. On Tuesday, the Isles power play was perfect two-for-two.
"Power play like anything you're going to go through your highs and lows," Bailey said of the power-play conversions. "To get rewarded with a couple tonight. It was big for us and got us going in the right direction."
TOP SIX STEPS UP:
The Isles have gone through some dry offensive stretches over the past month and Barry Trotz noted ahead of the game that they would need more of an impact on the scoresheet from their top players. On Tuesday the Isles responded with all four goals coming from the team's top six.
"We need those guys to be big for us," Trotz said. "They know what they have to do with us on a regular basis. It's a big win for us."
Video: NYI@NYR: Lee fires shot that finds the twine
After busting out of lengthy goal droughts earlier this week, Bailey and Beauvillier continued to key the Isles offense on Tuesday. Bailey now has three goals and two assists through his last five games - after a 15-game goal drought - while Beauvillier has six points (3G, 3A) over that same span. Beauvillier had previously gone 13 games without a goal from Dec. 17 to Jan. 14.
Lee scored rifled in his 16th goal of the season and his second goal in as many games.
Nelson, who leads the Isles in goals, netted his 20th goal of the season and his fifth goal through his last six games.
"He's been really good," Beauvillier said of Nelson. "You know what to expect out of him. He's been there. Sometimes he's not on the scoresheet, but he does so much for us; on the penalty kill, against some big lines and he's had some tough matchups this year. He's been huge for us. He's just a 200-foot player. It's been a lot of fun playing for him."
Video: NYI@NYR: Greiss makes remarkable save with glove
GREISS SHINES IN WIN:
Greiss made his 22nd start of the season and improved his record to 14-7-1 as he put forth an "outstanding" performance according to Trotz. The Rangers held a staggering 42-18 shot advantage over the Isles. Even with the four-goal lead, the German netminder was tested with double-digit shots in each period. Greiss prevailed and made timely and necessary saves to keep the Islanders in the game and hold off the Rangers offensive surges, including a key save on Kappo Kakko late in the third.
"Thomas was great tonight, really big," Lee said. "When they had those pushes, he made some huge saves, some extended zone time he was right on top of them. He made the game for us tonight."
The Isles don't return to game action until Feb. 1 as they host Vancouver at Barclays Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 1 p.m.