Loss to Rangers belied Islanders' strong play

Anton Stralman of the Rangers and Matt Moulson

Anton Stralman of the Rangers and Matt Moulson of the Islanders battle for possession in the third period. (March 7, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

What the Islanders chose to take away from Thursday night's game was not the crushing disappointment of an overtime loss to the Rangers but the glimpse of how a playoff game can feel -- and the sense that they belonged.

To have come away with only one point, after leading for 55 minutes in a maximum-buzz atmosphere at Nassau Coliseum, was not the best thing for their postseason health. But exactly halfway through the lockout-shortened season, the Islanders (10-11-3) are only three points out of the last Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Rangers currently are eighth at 12-9-2 (26 points)

"I don't think we have to recover from anything, to be honest with you," coach Jack Capuano said. "I thought we played a pretty good game. Came out real strong. [The Rangers] had a couple of power plays in the end and capitalized in overtime. But, I mean, the [game-tying] shot was going wide that [Rick] Nash got his stick on. I liked our energy level, I liked the way we played."

To have the Rangers sneak back into the game so late, then have the Rangers handed the pivotal power-play advantage only seconds into overtime, presented a feel-sorry opportunity for the Islanders. But defenseman Travis Hamonic said, "We have to just stop talking about it. What's done is done. We can't change the fact that we only got the one point.

"But the neat thing about this [condensed] schedule . . . is you can play well for a week and win a couple, or not play well and lose a couple, but the important thing is you get right back at it. Twenty-four hours and we've got another game. Washington is important to us."

The Islanders would like to believe they are set up for a playoff push. Why not? "I think a lot of teams are set up to make a push," Capuano said. "You look at the start that Washington got and look at where they are now." From 2-8-1, Washington is 10-11-1 and on a three-game winning streak.

"Our guys realize," Capuano said, "that every game is like a Game 7. It doesn't get any easier, so we have to continue to make sure we're the hardest-working team every night."

Thompson suspended.The NHL announced Friday that Islanders assistant coach Brent Thompson has been suspended for two games for making inappropriate and abusive comments to NHL officials during Thursday night's game against the Rangers.

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