The Islanders were much better this time around against the Rangers. They couldn’t have been much worse.
But their special-teams play cost them.
Derick Brassard’s egregious cross-checking penalty deep in his own zone on Jesper Fast with 53.5 seconds left in regulation — a “poor decision,” in the words of coach Barry Trotz — led to Chris Kreider’s power-play goal with 24.6 seconds remaining as the Rangers won, 3-2, on Thursday night in the teams’ first game at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum since March 10, 2015.
“I thought our performance was good and, at the end of the day, we take an unnecessary cross-checking penalty,” Trotz said.
The Islanders (28-14-4), who had been outskated and outworked in a 6-2 loss at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, were 0-for-5 on the power play. The Rangers (22-19-4) went 2-for-5.
“It’s just not a good feeling,” Brassard said. “It was a really good hockey game. He calls that with a minute left. The ref in the corner had nothing, but the guy in the neutral zone is deciding to call that.
“We battle hard and they score a power-play goal on a questionable dive in the corner,” Brassard added. “They had three power plays in the third.”
“I thought it was a little bit of a weak call, but I’m not going to sit here and criticize that,” Matt Martin said. “We let it get away, for sure. We deserved to win that game tonight, or at least get it into overtime. It’s a tough one to swallow. I’m not going to sleep easy on that tonight.”
Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves for the Islanders, who will get a third chance against the Rangers on Tuesday night at the Garden. Alexandar Georgiev stopped 38 shots.
The Islanders could be happy with a much tighter defensive performance as they took away much of the skating space the speedy Rangers had on Monday night. Artemi Panarin, who had two goals and three assists on Monday, was held in check before assisting on Kreider’s winner.
Casey Cizikas’ return after a two-game absence was a boost to the Islanders. His identity line with Martin and Leo Komarov got the bulk of the defensive assignment against Panarin.
“I think we were a little bit embarrassed with our performance the other night,” Martin said. “Having Zeeker back, we have a little more depth in terms of the way we use our lines.”
Cizikas had taken David Pastrnak’s shot to the groin in Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Bruins at Barclays Center.
“I’ve been hit there quite a few times,” Cizikas said. “But to the severity of what I was going through and the pain, I’ve never gone through anything like that.”
Anthony Beauvillier’s four-on-four goal as he drove to the crease tied the score at 2-2 at 12:40 of the third period, giving him goals in back-to-back games. He snapped a 13-game goal drought in Tuesday night’s 8-2 win over the Red Wings.
Josh Bailey, with his second goal in two games after snapping a 15-game goal drought against Detroit, made it 1-0 with 50.3 seconds left in the first period as the Islanders started with a 22-6 shot advantage.
They were held without a shot in the second period until Brock Nelson’s power-play poke at 14:16.
Notes & quotes: Jordan Eberle went through the concussion protocol after Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren cross-checked him face-first into the right post at 15:29 of the second period. Eberle returned for the third period . . . Anders Lee played in his 246th straight game, tying John Tavares for the fifth-longest ironman streak in team history.