This is not the way these rivalry games are supposed to go.
Forty-five games into their season, the Rangers finally got to face the Islanders, whom they’ll see two more times in the next week. And after all that talk at the morning skate about how tough the Islanders are, how patient they are, how they wait for you to make mistakes and how they don’t beat themselves, the Rangers simply dominated their suburban rivals in a 6-2 victory Monday night at the Garden.
“We’re getting deeper into the season, and if we want to achieve our goal [of making the playoffs], we can’t let many nights slip through our fingers,’’ Rangers coach David Quinn said. “And it doesn’t mean you win every night, but you want to give yourself a chance to win every night. And lately we’ve been doing a better job of that. Tonight was a huge test for us.’’
Artemi Panarin, the free agent who spurned the Islanders to sign with the Rangers last summer, had two goals and three assists to power the Blueshirts (22-19-4) to their third win in four games. They are six points behind the Flyers for the second wild-card spot.
Alexandar Georgiev, fighting for ice time as the Rangers carry three goaltenders, made 32 saves to earn the victory in his first start in nine days. He denied feeling pressure to win because of the three-goalie situation but said the victory was really satisfying.
“It feels really good,’’ he said. “Obviously, the team helped me a lot today. We got the lead and played good defense, so I just had to do my job really well.’’
Adam Fox, the rookie defenseman from Jericho who is a lifelong Rangers fan, got in on the fun with a second-period goal and a third-period assist. Defensive-minded winger Jesper Fast had a goal and two assists.
Fox’s goal, at 11:11 of the second period, gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead and some breathing room.
“It’s really awesome,’’ he said of playing in his first Rangers-Islanders game. “I obviously saw a lot of games, and went to a few at both rinks. You can see how the crowd is a little split, and it’s really awesome to be a part of it on this side and feel the intensity when you’re out there.’’
He laughed when asked if this goal, his sixth, was his favorite of his rookie year.
“Yeah, it’s up there,’’ he said. “I don’t have too many to have a real favorite, but obviously a big goal, and scoring against a team that was 10 minutes from my house is pretty cool.’’
Georgiev went 2-1 in three appearances against the Islanders last season with a shutout, a goals-against average of 0.87 and a save percentage of .967. But things didn’t start well for him or the Rangers as Jordan Eberle gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead 18 seconds into the game.
Things settled down after that, and the Rangers began to dominate play over the rest of the first period. They tied it at 8:14 of the period when Fast beat Nick Leddy to the rebound of Panarin’s shot and whacked it in for his eighth goal. The Rangers outshot the Islanders 17-7 in the period.
Chris Kreider deflected in a shot by Panarin at 5:06 of the second period for his 15th goal, and after Fox gave the Rangers a two-goal lead, Panarin scored twice in the third period to put them in complete control.
Jacob Trouba scored a power-play goal to make it 6-1 before the Islanders’ Brock Nelson scored on a power play.