The frustration was palpable in the locker room after the New York Islanders 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
The immediate source of frustration was on the last-minute cross-checking call on Derick Brassard, which paved the way for Chris Kreider's game-winning goal with 24.6 seconds to play. The late goal meant that the Isles came away empty-handed from a game they felt they deserved at least a point. That it came against the Rangers - their second loss to the Blueshirts in four days - added some extra sting.
"I thought our performance was good. At the end of the day we took an unnecessary cross-checking penalty and I felt like we deserved at least a point," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought we played well for the most part, but we made a poor decision at the end and they capitalized on it."
The ending spoiled what was otherwise an exciting and well-played Islanders-Rangers game, the first at Nassau Coliseum since March 10, 2015.
Video: NYI Recap: Bailey, Beauvillier score in 3-2 defeat
After dropping a 6-2 decision to the Rangers on Monday, the Islanders came out with some zest for Thursday's rematch, outshooting the Rangers 22-6 in the opening frame.
Josh Bailey capped an inspired first with his 10th goal of the season and second in as many games to put the Isles up 1-0. Tom Kuhnhackl fished a puck out of the corner and threw it out in front of the net, where Ross Johnston one-touched the puck back to Bailey, who hammered a slap shot past Alexandar Georgiev (38 saves) with 50.3 seconds to play in the period.
After a one-sided first period, the Rangers tilted the ice in the second, holding the Isles without a shot for the first 14 minutes of the period. During that span, Mika Zibanejad tied the score at 12:46, squeaking a power-play goal across the line, despite a valiant effort from Ryan Pulock, who swept the puck out of the crease once, but couldn't save a second rebound.
The Rangers wound up scoring on their next shot, though it came 12 minutes later at the 4:16 mark of the third period. Tony DeAngelo corralled the puck after leaving the penalty box and beat Semyon Varlamov (25 saves) up high off the rush. Adding insult to injury, Eberle rung a shot off the crossbar during the DeAngelo minor.
Video: NYR@NYI: Bailey blasts shot past Georgiev from slot
Anthony Beauvillier revived the Isles' hopes with a 2-2 goal at 12:40, rushing the puck up the ice, shooting it off the Coliseum's lively end boards before slipping it five-hole on Georgeiv. Beauvillier's goal was the Isles' third this season at four-on-four, a situation the Isles were relatively lucky to be in, as Artemi Panarin was called for embellishment on a Casey Cizikas trip.
The game appeared destined for overtime prior to late penalty. Varlamov was able to stop Zibanejad's initial try, but Kreider was on the doorstep to knock in a loose rebound. Trotz put the game down to special teams, as the Rangers converted 2-of-5 opportunities, while the Islanders went 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
"They had their power plays and we had ours. They had two tonight. If you look at it that way, we didn't match the special teams," captain Anders Lee said. "Overall, it's a full-60, it's four-on-four, it's five-on-five, the whole game. We were right there. Credit to their goalie and timely scoring for them."
While the Islanders have back-to-back games this weekend, they will see the Rangers again on Tuesday, as the team's play the final of three meetings in nine days.
"These are ones you want," Lee said. "These Islander-Rangers games are the ones you want. Division, top rival, these are the ones you've got to have."
Video: NYR 3 vs NYI 2: Barry Trotz
CIZIKAS RETURNS TO LINEUP:
Casey Cizikas returned to the lineup on Thursday after missing two games, the result of taking a David Pastrnak shot to the groin on Saturday.
Cizikas' return was a welcome one and he made his presence felt during the rivalry game. The energetic played 13:54 TOI, threw four hits and was 14-3 in face-offs. Cizikas' linemates - Matt Martin and Leo Komarov - were also effective on Thursday. Martin had a game-high seven hits, while Komarov had four hits and four shots - not including a shot off the iron in the second period.
EBERLE SURVIVES INJURY SCARE:
Jordan Eberle survived an injury scare in the second period, briefly leaving after getting cross-checked face-first into the post by Ryan Lindgren.
Eberle stayed down and was tended to by the Islanders training staff, but came back for the third period. Eberle was everywhere for the Isles on Thursday, putting six shots on goal - including a shot off the crossbar and a AAA chance that Georgiev robbed midway through the third - and tied a team-high nine attempts.
"He went off. It was a pretty dangerous cross-check," Trotz said. "There was no place where he was going to go and the Ranger defenseman sort of targeted him and sent him into a vulnerable position. He came back and should be fine."
The Islanders return to action on Saturday afternoon when they take on the Washington Capitals at 1 p.m.