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Islanders need to cleanse bitter aftertaste of Saturday night debacle against Rangers

Alexandar Georgiev #40 and Jack Johnson #27 of

Alexandar Georgiev #40 and Jack Johnson #27 of the Rangers defend against Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the Islanders during the first period at Madison Square Garden on January 16, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

It would be silly to put too much emphasis on the season’s third game, to declare that the Islanders need to make some sort of bounce-back statement in Monday’s last-ever home opener at Nassau Coliseum (and unlike 2014, we think we mean it this time with UBS Arena at Belmont Park on the horizon).

Or would it? The Islanders certainly looked slow and disinterested after intended starting goalie Semyon Varlamov was injured in warm-ups before Saturday night’s dismal 5-0 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. There’s very little time in a 56-game regular season to recover from a prolonged slump.

"We had some tough bounces early and we didn’t find a way to respond and play our way out of it," right wing Josh Bailey said. "We’re staying positive. We just needed to get things going in the right direction. It never really came together. It’s tough. You’re going to have those bounces go against you sometimes, but it doesn’t mean you have to lose the game. We’ll try to respond on Monday with a better game."

The Islanders will face the Bruins after splitting their first two games against the Rangers at the Garden. That included Varlamov’s 24-save performance in Thursday night’s 4-0 win.

The Islanders did not practice on Sunday, so there was no update on Varlamov, who was caught underneath his mask by Cal Clutterbuck’s shot in the pregame warm-ups.

If Varlamov remains unavailable, coach Barry Trotz will have to choose between highly touted Russian rookie Ilya Sorokin and former Devils No. 1 Cory Schneider.

Sorokin, thrust unexpectedly into Saturday’s lineup, made 27 saves in his long-awaited NHL debut as the Islanders were prone to turnovers in an overall sloppy defensive effort.

"If you ask him, he probably would like a goal or two back as well," Trotz said of Sorokin. "But that’s the growing pains of coming over to North America."

But it’s doubtful that Varlamov could have salvaged anything out of the Islanders’ effort on Saturday.

"We sort of shot ourselves in the foot," Trotz said. "It was one of the worst-managed games by our group in terms of our whole game."

Trotz said the lone bright spot was killing off all but one of the Rangers’ eight power plays, including the first six.

But the Islanders generated just 23 shots and did not generate any high-danger chances, per naturalstattrick.com, compared to six high-danger chances for the Rangers.

"We’ve got a veteran group," Bailey said. "We know what we need to do to have success. We’re going to come back and make sure we’re well-prepared and ready for puck drop on Monday."

The Bruins enter Monday’s game after splitting their first two games against the Devils in New Jersey and have yet to generate a five-on-five goal. That included Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss as Devils rookie Yegor Sharangovich scored with 1.7 seconds remaining in the extra period.

The injury-depleted Bruins are still missing David Pastrnak (hip), who led the NHL with 48 goals last season.

New York Sports