GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It was a move that raised eyebrows. It also prompted Rangers coach Alain Vigneault to turn off his television and then take a thinly veiled swipe at the Islanders.
On Sunday night, in a game in which they could have leapfrogged the Rangers with a victory, the Islanders instead scratched a slew of healthy regulars and dropped a 5-2 decision to the Flyers. The loss left the Islanders with a wild-card slot and a first-round matchup with the Florida Panthers rather than the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins, who instead will face Vigneault’s Rangers in the first round.
Vigneault couldn’t bear to watch. “You know what? After five minutes of looking at it, I moved on,” he said during a news briefing Monday, rolling his eyes and laughing. Asked if the tactic was concerning, he said: “Each team has to do what they feel they have to do. The Islanders did what they thought they had to do, and we did what we thought we had to do. At the end of the day, it’s their team, their organization.”
Like many viewers, Vigneault sensed where the game was going. The Islanders were up 2-0 early, but after the Flyers tied it soon after that, the Islanders didn’t put up much more resistance. They finished with 17 shots, the fewest any team took against the Flyers all season.
Vigneault said he thought the Rangers “ended the season by playing hard, we improved our road record, and our penalty kill improved.”
In their final game Saturday, the Rangers could have mailed it in against the Red Wings, who were desperate for a playoff berth, but instead beat Detroit, 3-2. That allowed them to jump ahead of the Islanders into third place in the Metropolitan Division, which wound up creating a matchup with the second-place Penguins.