The Islanders’ 2-1 shootout victory over the Rangers on Wednesday in the teams’ first meeting in Brooklyn averaged 2.9 percent of New York-area homes, the best-ever regular-season rating in the market for an indoor game on NBCSN.
The only higher rating was the 3.56 for the teams’ Stadium Series meeting at Yankee Stadium in 2014.
Before the game, NBCSN analyst and former Islanders coach and GM Mike Milbury weighed in on the rivalry with some memories from his time with the team, delivered in a lighthearted manner amid chuckles from his colleagues.
“I can remember a situation when one time we were beating the Rangers,” he said. “I called a timeout with about two minutes to go in the game because our team was constantly losing two-goal leads.
“The Rangers bench went nuts. It completely exploded. They thought I was trying to abuse them. Honestly, seriously, I wasn’t. Although I will tell you that I did spit at Ulf Samuelsson, at least in his direction, and I lost all sorts of respect for him when he told the press about it afterwards. It was just a gesture.”
Milbury also recalled an infamous 2002 fight between the Islanders’ Alexei Yashin and the Rangers’ Tomas Kloucek.
“Here’s how intense the rivalry was,” Milbury said. “Alexei Yashin, wonderful guy, gifted player, had some trouble getting up for certain games - a lot of games. But I remember a night in Manhattan. He had a first-period hat trick, and then had a fight with Kloucek. Remember the big defenseman? He went toe-to-toe with him. I thought, oh, my God, he’s finally figured it out. Not so fast Kowalski; he went back to normalcy after the Rangers game was over.
“It’s just filled with hatred. I mean passionate hatred. These players tonight, they’re in for a treat. It’s a special game on the schedule. The fans will be passionate. [The players] will be passionate, and we’ll all enjoy the game.”