By Katie Strang
Six days after a humiliating 5-0 blowout against the Rangers, the Islanders wanted to erase the lingering sting.
It wasn’t just the loss last Wednesday that bothered them, not just their inability to score or the handful of goals they surrendered against their rivals. It was the flat-out lack of effort that still hovered.
There was no avenging last week’s loss, however. While 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 for the second time in one week the Islanders 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,” said goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who made 23 saves last night. “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 the disaster of last Wednesday, an admittedly-atrocious effort when they were bludgeoned by the Rangers and left floundering in a three-goal hole only 8:30 into play.
Instead, they pushed the play and tested Henrik Lundqvist early, etching out a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Mark Streit tallied on the power play early in the first with a one-timer from the point at 2:09 and Comeau then skipped the puck over Lundqvist’s shoulder with a sharp wrist shot from the left circle ten minutes later for a 2-0 lead.
But on a night with serious implications—both Boston and Atlanta earned wins on the road—the Rangers took advantage of a poor second period for the Islanders. After being held to only four shots in the first, the Rangers peppered Roloson with 15 in the middle frame and scored a trio of goals as a result.
“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 period, lifting one over the left shoulder of Dwayne Roloson and Olli Jokinen hitting the same spot on Roloson to tie the game at 2 at 12:57.
Aaron Voros set up Marian Gaborik for the go-ahead goal at 7:15, slipping a pass between defenseman Mark Streit’s legs to connect with Gaborik for his 40th goal of the season.
“It was a bit of a letdown. The mistakes we made in the second cost us and they put them in the back of the net,” Comeau said.
Although Comeau would net his second of the night later in the third, Marc Staal’s insurance goal at 5:05 essentially sealed the Rangers’ win and left the door open for a playoff possibility.
When asked about the team’s struggles with consistency this season, coach Scott Gordon used last night as a prime example of the need to improve.
“It’s called experience and we can’t accelerate that,” coach Scott 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.”