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Rangers 3, Islanders 0

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Despite a solid performance from Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who made 28 saves, the Islanders were shutout at Madison Square Garden, 3-0, with the final goal scored by Marian Gaborik on the empty net.

“I thought Nabby played well; he gave us a chance,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought his goalie touches were real good tonight. He really communicated with our D. A lot of our goalie touches led to clean breakouts tonight. I was happy with his game.”

Like usual, the Isles goalie didn’t say too much about his play.

“All I can do is give the guys a chance,” Nabokov said. “I try to do my job and that’s playing simple, nothing more.”

Goalie Evgeni Nabokov stops a shot by Anton Stralman in the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on December 26, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
No matter how well the Islanders goaltender played, the Islanders failed to score. The Islanders now trail the season series with the Rangers 3-1, have lost their last three games and have fallen short in seven of their last nine games.

“You have to sacrifice and play with the will to compete, do the little things, the intangibles,” Capuano said. “We’re not losing games because of systems right now. We’re losing games because we’re getting out-muscled and we’re making dumb decisions with the puck and turning pucks over.”

Trying to create some offense, the Islanders pulled Nabokov with 3:18 left in regulation. But a breakdown on defense on the Islanders blue line enabled Marian Gaborik to come flying in on a breakaway. Milan Jurcina dove, trying to poke check the puck away, but Gaborik scored on the empty net to send the Rangers ahead 3-0 at 17:32 of the third.

Carl Hagelin scored his second goal of the night exactly 11 minutes earlier, at 6:32. Entering the offensive zone, Michael Del Zotto made a drop pass to Ryan Callahan. As Del Zotto skated down left side of the boards, he received a pass back from Callahan to complete the give-and-go above the goal line. Callahan passed to Hagelin in the slot, firing a snap shot just above the crease to beat Nabokov glove side.

The Islanders were held to just 10 shots on goal through the first 35 minutes of play, but with five minutes left in that second period, the Islanders seemed to turn it on. By the end of the period, they trailed 22-19, but led the period in shots 12-10. The Islanders continued that offensive push into the third period, but couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities.

“We had some chances,” Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said. “We generated some chances off the power play in the second period. We weren’t able to capitalize on it, but we had some momentum and I thought we had a lot of scoring chances that we couldn’t covert on, that we couldn’t get second opportunities on. That was the difference in the game.”

After a scoreless first period, Hagelin opened the Rangers scoring at 5:14 of the second period. Del Zotto fired the initial shot from the top of the circle, Callahan went in for the rebound and Hagelin collected at the crease.

Playing on the last line of defense, Nabokov is able to watch the play develop from one end of the ice to the other. After the game Monday night, the Islanders netminder shared what he thinks it will take to get the team back on track and start to put some wins together.

“We just need to simplify our game a little bit,” Nabokov said. “I don’t think we need to change a lot, I think we need to simplify. We have quite a bit of turnovers and we just have to find a way to play hard… We have to come out with swagger… We have to come out with the mentality that we can win, that we are going to work hard and at the end of the night, see what will happen.”

The Islanders play again on Thursday. They take on the Calgary Flames at Nassau Coliseum.

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