Six days after a humiliating 5-0 blowout by the Rangers, the Islanders wanted to erase the lingering sting.
It wasn't just the loss last week that bothered them, not just their inability to score or the goals they surrendered to their archrivals. It was the lack of effort that still hovered.
There was no avenging that loss last night, however. Although the Islanders played a superb first period and Blake Comeau delivered his third multi-goal game of the season, they could not sustain the effort and failed to cramp the Rangers' playoff push, falling, 4-3, at Nassau Coliseum.
"It's disappointing, frustrating, everything else you want to say. That's the way we've played all year," goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. "We play one great period, then sit back. We'll play 40 minutes, 50 minutes, I just don't know why we can't play a 60-minute game."
True, the Islanders' first period was nothing like last Wednesday's admittedly atrocious effort, when they fell into an early three-goal hole. Instead, this time they pushed the play and tested Henrik Lundqvist early, grabbing a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Mark Streit scored on the power play in the first with a one-timer from the point at 2:09. Comeau skipped the puck over Lundqvist's shoulder with a sharp wrist shot from the left circle 10 minutes later for a 2-0 lead.
But on a night with serious playoff implications for the Rangers - Boston and Atlanta also won on the road - they took advantage of a poor second period by the Islanders. After being held to only four shots in the first period, the Rangers peppered Roloson with 15 in the second and scored three goals.
"This one's probably more [frustrating] with what is at stake and since it's at home and especially the start we got off to," rookie John Tavares said. "The game couldn't have started any better for us. We gave them too many opportunities and they capitalized on them."
Vinny Prospal cut the Islanders' lead in half 1:14 into the second, lifting one over the left shoulder of Roloson. Olli Jokinen hit the same spot on Roloson to tie it at 2 at 12:57.
"It was a bit of a letdown,'' Comeau said. "The mistakes we made in the second cost us and they put them in the back of the net."
Although Comeau would score again in the third, Marc Staal's insurance goal at 5:05 essentially sealed the Rangers' win and left the door open for a playoff spot.
When asked about the Islanders' struggles with consistency this season, coach Scott Gordon used this loss as a prime example of the need to improve.
"It's called experience, and we can't accelerate that," Gordon said. "Let's not kid ourselves - we had two pretty good periods, the Rangers had one, and that was enough for them to win."