You could say the Rangers were desperate on Saturday, what with being 0-for-2019, 0-for-Barclays Center history and 0-for-this week’s home-and-home against the Islanders.
But coach David Quinn said he prefers the word “urgent” because “desperate” has too negative a connotation. Call it what you will, but he did admit, “We’ve been getting more urgent with every mounting loss, that’s for sure.”
For one day, the reeling Rangers could enjoy their flight to Columbus a tad less desperate and/or urgent, thanks to a 2-1 victory over the Islanders that ended a five-game losing streak this month and a seven-game losing streak in Brooklyn.
The game-winner came with 5:05 remaining when the puck caromed off Mats Zuccarello’s skate into a thicket of feet and sticks in front of Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner and over the goal line.
Quinn had been preaching that good things happen when you aim pucks at the net, and so it came to pass when Tony DeAngelo did exactly that.
DeAngelo was in on defense for Neal Pionk, who Quinn said was suffering from a lower-body injury. Pionk might be able to play against the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Sunday.
“Hopefully we can continue that mentality,” Quinn said. “I still thought there were plenty of times we could have shot more pucks and created more chances for ourselves.”
The key for the Rangers was defense in general and penalty- killing in particular behind goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who made 24 saves. He allowed only a second-period goal by Anthony Beauvillier at 8:40.
The Rangers answered 14:09 into the second when Boo Nieves left the puck for Filip Chytil in the slot and he ripped it past Lehner.
Quinn cited a save by Georgiev in the final minute that prevented a potential tying goal that would have been devastating for the Rangers, especially after the Islanders’ late game-winner on Thursday — on their only shot of the third period.
“That really would have crushed us in so many ways,” Quinn said. “He stood tall.”
Mika Zibanejad won 17 of 29 faceoffs for the Rangers.
The Rangers have a long way to go to get back into reasonable playoff contention, but for the moment, they were happy just to stop the bleeding and feel good about themselves. They had not won since New Year’s Eve.
“I think the last couple of games, we’ve done a lot of good things but just haven’t gotten rewarded,” Brady Skjei said. “We did that little bit extra tonight.”
The Rangers had been encouraged by how they played in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Golden Knights and Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Islanders.
“Everyone saw that last game,” Marc Staal said. “Obviously, we felt like that should have gone our way, or at least into overtime. It was disappointing and frustrating. I liked how we came out and played and responded to that. It could have went the other way.”
Before the game, Quinn said, “When you’re in the hole that we’re in, you don’t jump out of the hole. You’re going to crawl your way out of it . . . Hopefully we can finish the job and get out of the hole.”
When it was over, there at last was a sliver of daylight.
“They test your character and your grit, and I thought we answered the bell in both those departments tonight,” Quinn said. “They’ve been the hottest team in the league, and they plan man hockey. They’re men, and I thought we did a really good job.”
Said Skjei, “I know it was our first win in the building, and that also was nice, but we have to string a few more together.”
Still, for one day, Skjei added, “It feels good in here.”