Rangers-Islanders is always going to be big, regardless of where either team is in the standings. Those games are always going to be bigger at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum than anywhere else. And the games are always better when both teams need a win, as both did Thursday night.
Chris Kreider is one of only a few Rangers who had played in this building before, and he delivered big-time. He banged in the rebound of a shot by Mika Zibanejad on the power play with 24.6 seconds left to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Islanders, their second win over their rivals this week.
Former Ranger Derick Brassard took a cross-checking penalty against Jesper Fast with 53.5 seconds remaining and Kreider punished his old teammate and the Islanders by scoring his 16th goal. That gave the Rangers (23-19-4) their fourth win in the last five games.
“Just a real gutsy effort by our guys,’’ said Rangers coach David Quinn, who admitted his team was “curious’’ about what playing at the Coliseum would be like. The game was the Rangers’ first in the building since March 10, 2015.
“Most of our guys had never played in this building before,’’ Quinn said. “I don’t think we were intimidated, but I think we were kind of curious, trying to see what this was all going to be about. And once we got out of the first period [trailing] 1-0, we go, ‘OK, this is just another hockey game.’ And we did a good job of turning the tide.’’
Alexandar Georgiev was a huge part of the reason the Rangers escaped the first period trailing by only one goal. He made 21 saves in the period as the Rangers were outshot 22-6.
Georgiev, battling for ice time in the Rangers’ three-goalie rotation, made 38 saves and improved his record to 12-9-1. He is 2-0 against the Islanders.
Quinn has embraced the chase for a playoff spot (the Rangers are six points out), and he hopes the Rangers will be able to bottle the type of energy they had Thursday against teams not named the Islanders, whom they will face again on Tuesday.
“I think where we’re at in the season, and what we want to accomplish, we need to show up in every game with the same type of passion and urgency that we had tonight,’’ he said. “Obviously, when it’s the Islanders and the Rangers and we’re in Nassau Coliseum, it adds a lot of flavor to it.’’
The Islanders’ Josh Bailey capitalized on a mistake by Jacob Trouba to score his second goal in as many games with 51 seconds left in the first period.
Trouba, heading back to play a puck off the end boards, whiffed on it as he tried to flick it to the corner. Tom Kuhnhackl picked it up and played it to the low slot, where Ross Johnston flubbed a shot. The puck trickled back to Bailey, who had no defender anywhere near him and was able to fire it home from point-blank range.
But the Rangers found their legs in the second and dominated possession for most of the period, finally tying the score on a goal by Zibanejad at 12:46.
The Rangers were on a power play at the time and the referees didn’t see the puck cross the goal line, but the play was reviewed on video at the next stoppage. TV replays showed that Zibanejad whacked at the puck and Isles defenseman Ryan Pulock cleared it off the line with his hand, but not before the whole puck had crossed the goal line.
Tony DeAngelo stepped out of the penalty box and scored his 12th goal at 4:16 of the third period to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead, but the Islanders tied it on a four-on-four goal by Anthony Beauvillier. It was his 12th.
Notes & quotes: Quinn dressed the same lineup as he did Monday, meaning forward Phillip DiGiuseppe was the only healthy scratch . . . The Rangers were outshot 40-28 for the game and won only 24 of 60 faceoffs (40 percent). Ryan Strome lost 13 of 16 faceoffs . . . Trouba had a team-high 26:01 of ice time.