The Rangers-Islanders rivalry was unlike any Western Conference matchup that Derick Brassard has experienced.
"I've never played in a game like that," said Brassard, who backhanded a pretty pass to Dan Girardi, who fired high and beat Evgeni Nabokov at 3:11 of overtime in the Rangers' 1-0 victory last night. "It was unreal."
"We don't really have a rivalry in Columbus," said Brassard, who came to New York in the Marian Gaborik trade six games ago. "There's a lot of Detroit fans when they'd come in. Well, Detroit and Chicago, too. Pittsburgh is only three hours away, but they'd only come in once every two years."
Brassard said his teammates told him to expect a large contingent of Rangers fans, which certainly was the case. Not only the history, but the distance has to be a factor, said Brassard, who had only played two previous games in Uniondale. "It's not far [from his apartment in Manhattan]," he said. "It took like 30 minutes to get here."
Torts: Rivalry? Almost
Rangers coach John Tortorella, who had said Friday that he "really didn't pay much attention to the Islanders," changed his tune postgame. "We're happy to take part in a game like that with them," he said. But Tortorella said he couldn't consider it a rivalry until this edition of the teams play a postseason series against each other.
Monkey off back
Girardi borrowed a goal-scoring phrase from Artem Anisimov, who went to Columbus in the Rick Nash trade: "I feel free," he said, smiling . . . The time of the regular-season finale -- April 27 at home against New Jersey -- has been set at 3 p.m. on NBC.