A night after a morale-boosting 2-1 win over the Rangers, the Islanders looked like they were going to duplicate that effort last night at Nassau Coliseum. They monopolized scoring chances, controlled the puck and set the tone in the first period, out shooting the Rangers 14-4.
It didn't matter.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stood fast (35 saves), the Rangers scored two goals in the first period and went on to a 5-2 victory.
"I think it's pretty obvious what it was," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said, explaining the loss. "The guy in the pads at the other end was pretty good."
Lundqvist's fine play came at a crucial juncture for the Rangers, who entered last night's game winless in their last five and reeling from an embarrassing and uninspired loss to their rivals that led coach John Tortorella to unleash a profanity-laced postgame news conference and bench veterans Wade Redden and Ales Kotalik last night.
"They came out flying . . . but you just have to stand tall," said Lundqvist, who made a spectacular save on Rob Schremp's power-play attempt in the first period. "There's no way they can play like that for 60 minutes. Then we scored our first goal and the game started to change a little bit."
Despite the Islanders' dominance in the first period - they held the Rangers without a shot through the first 7:50 - the Islanders found themselves down a pair of goals heading into the second period.
"It was probably a hard night for [Roloson] because he didn't see much action in his own end [in the first]," Gordon said.
Roloson, who was 55 seconds from a shutout Wednesday, could not match that performance and instead gave up five goals on 22 shots.
The Islanders didn't waste much time giving up another power-play goal in the second period as Callahan went five-hole on Roloson and notched his second goal of the night 27 seconds into the period.
Nate Thompson had an easy opportunity to put the Islanders on the board with a short-handed goal but missed an empty net after beating the wandering Lundqvist to the boards for control of the puck.
The Islanders' Andrew MacDonald scored his first NHL goal, a slap shot from the left point, at 9:31 during 4-on-4 play.
Despite a surge late in the second period when they put good pressure on Lundqvist and created ample scoring chances, the Islanders gave up two goals, including the Rangers' third power-play goal of the night after an ill-advised roughing penalty that allowed Marian Gaborik to cash in on a Rangers' 5-on-3 opportunity.
Already down a man after Freddy Meyer's delay-of-game penalty, Nielsen, Blake Comeau and Brendan Witt all joined Meyer in a crowded penalty box after Nielsen took a swipe at Michal Rozsival and began a scrum.
"I shouldn't have hit them there," Nielsen said. "It's bad by me and it shouldn't have happened."
Artem Anisimov and Nielsen traded goals later in the third, but Lundqvist's performance throughout the game ultimately gave the Rangers the insurmountable edge.
"He stood on his head out there tonight," Nielsen said.