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Loss on Island a night of frustration

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky avoids a hit from the Islanders' Jack Hillen as linemate Vinny Prospal goes toward the net. Prospal and Dubinsky scored the Rangers' two goals in the 6-2 loss on Thursday.

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By Jim Cerny,

Prior to Thursday’s contest with the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum, Rangers head coach John Tortorella warned that the home team would love nothing better than to beat their local rivals and “jam up” the Rangers’ march to the playoffs.

Tortorella’s analysis was spot-on, although his warning was not heeded, as the Islanders handed the Rangers a bitter 6-2 defeat on Thursday night. It was the second tough loss in as many nights for the Rangers, who were shut out by the Sabres 1-0 on Wednesday night.

The Rangers remain tied with Buffalo for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 87 points, three points up on ninth-place Carolina, although the Blueshirts have played one more game than both the Sabres and the Hurricanes.

“This was obviously a big game for them, and they played us tough, so I give them credit,” said Brian Boyle. “But it was a huge game for us and we got blown out. I’m embarrassed.”

After escaping the first period with a 1-0 lead despite being outshot, and largely outplayed, by the Islanders, the Rangers came undone in the second period, surrendering four unanswered goals to fall into a 4-1 hole after 40 minutes of play.

At the root of their problems on Thursday night was a string of six straight unsuccessful power plays bridging the first two periods. Instead of building upon the one-goal lead that Vinny Prospal provided with his sixth goal of the season at 14:25 of the first, the Rangers instead squandered four power plays in the opening period and another early in the second -- including a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities -- before failing a sixth time after the Islanders had taken a 2-1 lead.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist makes a tough, point-blank save against Islanders forward Kyle Okposo. Lundqvist, who came out of the game after two periods, had 18 saves over his 40 minutes.
“A lot of things didn’t work for us on the power play, I think,” said alternate captain Ryan Callahan. “We didn’t get a lot of end-zone time set up, and then once we did we were trying to force plays through the middle and they were picking them off. It was a lack of execution and a lack of effort on our part.”

Over the course of their six consecutive power plays, the Rangers managed just six shots in total. Two of those shots came during 71 seconds worth of a two-man advantage late in the first period.

Not surprisingly, the Islanders gained momentum from killing off so many Rangers power plays and they quickly turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead with a pair of goals 33 seconds apart early in the middle stanza.

Blake Comeau netted his 22nd goal of the season by pushing a rebound over the goal line after Josh Bailey’s original shot had deflected, first, off Dan Girardi and then off the post at 3:24. Then at 3:57 Radek Martinek hammered a slap shot from right wing that eluded Henrik Lundqvist to give the Isles a 2-1 advantage.

“There are no excuses,” said Lundqvist. “I felt that they were a lot more hungry than we were. I am very disappointed.”

After the Rangers could not convert shortly thereafter with Bailey in the box serving a delay of game penalty the match settled down, with the Rangers actually holding a territorial -- if not shots -- advantage.

It quickly fell apart for the visitors when the Islanders struck twice within a span of 1:16 later in the second period to grab a 4-1 lead. Jesse Joensuu deflected Martinek’s shot past Lundqvist for his fifth goal at 13:28; and then former Ranger PA Parenteau cashed in a rebound of Matt Moulson’s shot for his 19th goal of the season at 14:44.

Rangers defenseman Bryan McCabe takes Islanders forward Frans Nielsen down to the ice during the first period on Thursday. With a local rivalry in play, the physical game saw many fights and penalties.
It was a distasteful turn of events for Lundqvist, who was banged up in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss in Buffalo yet battled his way into making his 22nd consecutive start on Thursday. The defenseless Lundqvist finished the second period, but was replaced by Chad Johnson for the start of the third after surrendering four goals on 22 shots.

“It’s very disappointing for us to play like this at this time of the year,” said Lundqvist. “I need to be better and we need to be better.”

Johnson was largely untested in the final period of play, although he did give up a goal to Moulson when the Isles forward batted a puck out of mid-air and into the cage at 8:38. Trevor Gillies also deflected a Dylan Reese shot past Johnson with six minutes to play.

Brandon Dubinsky closed out the scoring when he deflected a shot by Brandon Prust past Al Montoya at 19:46.

Prust, who engaged in one of the four fights that took place in the third period, picked up an assist on the goal along with Boyle.

“When you lose, you lose, it doesn’t matter what the score is,” said Boyle. “But we need to rectify this because the last two games it just hasn’t been there for us. It’s unacceptable.”

With only four games remaining on their schedule, the Rangers look to get back on the winning track Sunday afternoon when they skate against the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers down in Philadelphia.

“We have no choice but to be resilient and come back after this,” said Callahan. “We have to fix it. But our mentality doesn’t change. We’re looking ahead.”
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