The seeds of sloppiness seeped into the Islanders’ effort the last time they faced the Rangers, though they managed to survive those issues to extend their recent dominance over their rival.
But when the teams meet again in a Thanksgiving appetizer on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Islanders will be coming off their worst effort of the season, a 6-2 loss to the Stars on Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center.
“Mental errors,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I didn’t like the mental errors. [We needed] a little bit of resolve when we did make a couple of mistakes. We’ve been pretty good at that all year. We sort of flat-lined a little bit. I didn’t think we responded the way we have been.”
The Islanders did not practice on Tuesday. Wednesday starts a stretch of four games in six days for the Islanders, who also face the Devils on Friday afternoon at Prudential Center and host the Hurricanes and the Capitals — Trotz’s first meeting against the team he led to the Stanley Cup last season — on Saturday and Monday nights, respectively.
The Islanders extended their winning streak over the Rangers to eight games with a 7-5 victory in Brooklyn last Thursday as left wing Anthony Beauvillier, 21, notched his first career hat trick. But the Rangers made it tense late in the third period after falling behind 6-3 and the Islanders needed Cal Clutterbuck’s empty-netter to ice the win.
After that game, Trotz acknowledged that while it was entertaining for the fans after the Islanders rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, he considered it a “sloppy” effort. He also added, with more than a hint of disdain, that it was a “gentle” game after the first period.
That is not typical of the historically-heated Islanders-Rangers’ rivalry, though it has been decidedly one-sided the past few seasons.
The Islanders hold a 12-1-0 edge in the series since Dec. 2, 2015 — the lone Rangers’ win coming in a 5-3 victory at the Garden on Oct. 13, 2016 — and are 15-3-0 since the start of 2014-15. The Islanders are also 9-2-0 at the Garden since the start of 2013-14.
However, the Rangers are 8-1-1 overall since Oct. 30 — their lone regulation loss coming to the Islanders — and have won their last six home games, including a 2-1 win over the Stars on Monday night, by an aggregate 21-10.
“It’ll be a different sort of environment,” Trotz said. “It’s a New York turf war, if you will. Madison Square Garden is a big building no matter if you’re an Islander, a Capital or a Predator. But I think with the New York rivalry, it’s special. I’m looking forward to it.”