On a beautiful, cold night at Yankee Stadium, beautiful hockey was not in style. The Islanders and Rangers played a choppy game with no flow, which seemed to indicate it wouldn't be John Tavares or Rick Nash who would decide it.
In the end, tough guy Daniel Carcillo provided the winning goal, banging home a rebound 4:36 into the third period. The Islanders, who controlled long stretches of the opening two periods, didn't generate much on Henrik Lundqvist until the final seconds, and the Rangers got out of the chill with a 2-1 victory and a Stadium Series sweep before 50,027 bipartisan fans at the Stadium.
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"We knew the conditions would be a little challenging out there, it was a little nippy," Alain Vigneault said. "It was challenging to play with the puck bouncing all over the place."
The Islanders opened the scoring late in the second. Brock Nelson, off two nifty, quick passes from Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Donovan, snapped home a shot past Lundqvist to get the Islanders on the board with 1:27 remaining in the period.
But on the next shift, the Rangers broke through. Derick Brassard jammed a puck out to the slot and Benoit Pouliot smashed it past Evgeni Nabokov, a quick response with 46.3 seconds left. The Islanders had been carrying the play, but the Rangers' goal changed the momentum heading into the third.
"We were kind of deflated after they tied it so quick," Kyle Okposo said. "We were buzzing for most of the game; I thought we outplayed them. That was a tough one to give up."
The Rangers were the ones buzzing at the start of the third, with Nabokov (32 saves) keeping it tied. He turned Dominic Moore's shot off the rush into a crowd in the slot, where Carcillo, the pugnacious veteran acquired for almost nothing from the Kings last month, snapped the rebound home.
From there, the Islanders were not the aggressors until the closing seconds. Okposo had a glorious chance, steering a Tavares pass just wide with eight seconds to go as the Islanders left the Bronx on a four-game winless streak, still mired in last in the Metro Division.
"It's a great experience, obviously a lot of fun to be out here," Tavares said. "It's disappointing we lost. We really wanted this one. Not just because of the setting, but where we are in the standings."
The Rangers got quite a boost out of their two Yankee Stadium games, beating the Devils on Sunday to take all four points from two division rivals, helping solidify their second-place spot ahead of the onrushing teams below them.
The Islanders didn't convert three power plays in the opening 35 minutes. They barely registered any shots, with the bouncing pucks forcing them to go for simpler options, such as tossing pucks from all angles. Lundqvist was sharp and his teammates made some notable sacrifices, such as Ryan Callahan's sprawling block on Brian Strait in the second among the Rangers' 17 blocks.
"We just kept making really good decisions, with and without the puck," Lundqvist said. "That's what helped us win."