A gutsy comeback win-turned-rout over their rivals left little room for disappointment, but the loss of Frans Nielsen added an unfortunate footnote to the Islanders' spirited 6-2 victory over the Rangers Thursday night.
To top off an injury-laden week (and season), the Islanders lost yet another of their most valuable players after the 26-year-old center suffered a frightening head injury after a first-period hit by Marian Gaborik.
"Any time Frans Nielsen goes down and leaves the game with a head injury, it doesn't sit well with us," Zenon Konopka said.
Nielsen was sent hurtling into the boards by a hefty blow from Gaborik at 16:29. He hit the glass at an awkward angle and slumped onto the ice, prompting Konopka and Radek Martinek to jump in and ignite a scrum over their fallen teammate.
"I didn't see the hit, but I just saw [Nielsen] down, not moving, and I got scared," Martinek said. "That's why I went over. He's such a nice guy. I'd do anything for him."
After several minutes down on the ice, Nielsen got up with the help of assistant trainer Nates Goto and headed toward the dressing room, appearing dazed. He did not return.
Gaborik escaped without a major penalty and was given two minutes for roughing and two minutes for boarding. Konopka received four minutes for roughing and both Martinek and Bryan McCabe were assessed two minutes for roughing.
"I thought that was a hit from behind," linemate Kyle Okposo said. "The ref said [Nielsen] turned his head. It's their judgment call and I don't know if the league will look at it, but we felt it should've been ."
A night earlier, Nielsen scored twice in the third period against the Devils to erase a two-goal deficit. His first goal of the period, his seventh shorthanded this season, tied the franchise record for shorthanded goals in a season set by Bob Bourne 30 years ago.
Nielsen's exit left the Islanders without their top two penalty-killers. Nielsen's linemate, shorthanded-breakaway artist Michael Grabner, missed the game to be with his girlfriend while she gave birth to the couple's first child.
Defensemen Ty Wishart (shoulder) and Jack Hillen (upper body) left the game with injuries in the third.