The New York Islanders' three-game point streak came to an abrupt halt on Monday night, as they dropped a 6-2 decision to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Jordan Eberle had the Isles up 18 seconds into the first period, but the Rangers answered with six-straight goals, powered primarily by Artemi Panarin's five-point night (2G, 3A). The Russian winger scored the Blueshirts fourth and fifth goals of the game while Jesper Fast, Chris Krieder, Adam Fox, and Jacob Trouba also scored. Brock Nelson eventually cut the Isles deficit down 6-2 as he scored on the power play at 12:48 in the third period. Semyon Varlamov stopped 29-of-35 shots, but was pulled late in the third period.
"We started fine and obviously, we scored really early," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought then, for us as far as the puck management was terrible. Their top guys were better than some of our top guys. I thought our level of battle wasn't where I expected it to be tonight. That being said, we got what we deserved."
Video: NYI Recap: Eberle, Islanders lose to Rangers
Eberle quickly put the Isles on board as he corralled a loose puck down low from Nelson and put it past Rangers netminder Alexandar Georgiev. That was the high point for the Islanders, who saw the Rangers respond at 8:14, with Fast batting a rebound past Varlamov.
Kreider and Fox made it 3-1 by the 11:11 point of the second period and Panarin scored 49 seconds into the third to extend the lead. Panarin scored his second of the period at 8:54 and Trouba ended Varlamov's night with a power-play goal at 10:15 of the third.
"I thought it went south for us on the [Rangers] first and second goal," Trotz said. "They got momentum off of that. We just didn't manage it well. We gave up way too many odd-man rushes. We haven't given that many odd man rushes in a long, long time. That's on us. We have some guys that want to play differently than we want to play or that we need to play against a team like this. We just couldn't do what we needed to tonight."
The Islanders and Rangers resumed the Battle of New York on Monday night in the first of three meetings in a nine-day span. While 366 days has passed since the Isles and Rangers last clashed, it took virtually no time for both teams to restore the passion in the heated tilt.
Fans were quickly riled up as back-to-back fights broke out soon after the Isles took a 1-0 lead. Ross Johnston and former Islander Michael Haley dropped the gloves and were administered five-minute penalties for fighting. The tilt was followed up by Matt Martin and Brendan Smith exchanging punches and both skaters were issued game misconducts for fighting during the same stoppage play. Neither Martin nor Smith returned for the remainder of the game.
Johnston later received a 10-minute misconduct after a scuffle with Anthony DeAngelo.
While the Islanders were stung by the 6-2 decision, the game had just about everything one could ask of a rivalry game; intensity, drama, and lingering bitterness for Thursday's rematch at the Coliseum.
"It's unacceptable," Anders Lee said. "These are the games we get up for. There shouldn't be a question about our effort or we talk about battle and all that, we shouldn't have to answer a question about that. It should be a no brainer."
EBERLE TRENDING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION:
In his 700th-career NHL game, Eberle posted a two-point (1G, 1A) showing, as he scored his fifth goal of the season second goal in the past three games. Through 10 seasons in the NHL, the winger has 496 career points on 213 goals and 283 assists.
"I think Jordan was really one of the few positives," Trotz said. "Jordan was creating. He was getting chances. He obviously scored the first goal. I think that's been coming the last few games. He's been moving his feet and doing all of the few things we expected him to do."
Eberle set up Nelson for the Isles strike on the power play in the third period.
POWER PLAY BREAKS THROUGH:
For the first time in nine straight games, the Isles had more than two power-play chances and went 1-for-3. During their second power play of the evening, Nelson batted in a shot from Eberle.
"We haven't had a lot of looks [on the power play]," Eberle said. "[We had] one last game and zero the game before that. You want to continue to compete, especially at the end of the game there. If you want to take one positive out of it, the power play was. We scored one."
Nelson scored his team-high fourth power-play goal of the season. The center has 32 points and 16 goals through 43 games this season.
KOIVULA RECALLED FROM BRIDGEPORT:
Prior to puck drop, Otto Koivula was recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Isles' AHL affiliate. Koivula did not play against the Rangers but was brought in for precautionary reasons as Casey Cizikas also did not play against the Rangers. Cizikas left the Isles game against the Bruins in overtime on Saturday night after taking a shot to the groin.
The Islanders return to action tomorrow night in the second leg of their back to back as they host Detroit at NYCB Live. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"Any time you lay an egg it's disappointing," Eberle said. The best part is we have a good group of guys here and a lot of character. I don't expect this to flop over to tomorrow. We'll be ready to go."