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Rangers take down the Isles in final Coliseum matchup; Nash nets game winner

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Marc Staal and Kevin Klein congratulate Cam Talbot on his 29 save performance in the Rangers 2-1 win over the Islanders. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After an abysmal first period, the Rangers (41-17-7) scored two straight goals to take down the New York Islanders (43-22-4) for the second straight game, and bringing the Blueshirts to within one point of the first place spot in the Metropolitan Division, with four games in hand.

It was a playoff atmosphere at the Nassau Coliseum, and the game itself was played out like a playoff game; very close, very physical, good defense, and an extremely competitive game.

The Rangers were back on their heels for the first 20 minutes, but picked up their play in the second period. A gorgeous Kevin Hayes goal got the Rangers going, and Rick Nash’s 39th goal of the season sealed the 2-1 win for the Rangers.

With the win, the Rangers are 17-3-1 in their last 21 games against Metropolitan Division foes. Since December 8th, the Rangers have been the best team in hockey, with a mind-boggling 30-7-3 record in that span. And in the last 17 games, all without Henrik Lundqvist, they are 12-2-3, a truly impressive feat.

It was also the Rangers 20th road win this season, continuing their success away from the Garden. The Rangers are the only NHL team with at least 19 regulation/overtime wins on home ice and on the road this season.

Cam Talbot was back in net again for the Rangers, and he played another outstanding hockey game. Talbot has allowed four goals total in the last four games, looking like a number one goalie. He is locked in, and playing arguably the best hockey of his career. Talbot is 3-0-1 with a 0.99 GAA, a .966 save percentage, and one shutout in his last four games. He is 6-1-1 with a 1.61 GAA, a .946 save percentage, and two shutouts in his last eight games.

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Cam Talbot had another fantastic performance against the Islanders, stopping 29 pucks for his 15th win of the season. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The first period was absolutely horrible for the Rangers. They were “outmuscled, outworked, and outchanced” as Kevin Hayes said, spending what seemed like the entire period in their own end. They were outshot 13-7, and won just three of 17 possible faceoffs. Talbot was very strong, making 12 saves and allowing the Islanders from creating a commanding lead.

The only goal of the period came from rookie Anders Lee, scoring his 23rd goal of the season. After getting knocked down, Lee collected the puck, flinging the puck in front on a wraparound attempt. It went off of Marc Staal’s skate, and through the legs of Talbot, giving the Islanders the 1-0 lead.

After collecting themselves in the locker room, the Rangers came out, putting on a much better performance in the second half, getting more chances and putting the puck on net.

After a Rangers power play opportunity, the Blueshirts finally broke through, and it was Kevin Hayes submitting his highlight for goal of the year.

It all started back in the Rangers zone, with Rick Nash declining a change, and stealing the puck on a backcheck. Mats Zuccarello made a fantastic pass to Hayes for a breakaway. He managed to shake off Travis Hamonic the entire way, then stopped on a dime, spinning and transitioning to his forehand to shoot it past a sprawled Jaroslav Halak. The patience and skill shown on the play was incredible, and number 13 had his 13th goal of the season, tying the game at one. He also reached 30 points for the season.

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Kevin Hayes scored a fantastic highlight reel goal, tying the game at one in the second period. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The Islanders would start to find their legs again and pressured late, but Talbot made some big saves to keep the game knotted at one.

Alain Vigneault switched up the lines a bit going into the third period, promoting JT Miller to the second line, and adding Kreider alongside Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass. The Rangers had 49 shots attempted in the first two periods, but the Islanders blocked 24 of them.

The difference maker came just 2:50 into the third period. Rick Nash got the puck at the blue line, and stopped shortly after, seeing a few of his teammates streaking to the net. He fired a hard pass, looking for a deflection. He got what he was looking for, but it went off of the Islanders’ Ryan Strome and past Halak. Nash’s 39th goal of the season put the Rangers up by a score of 2-1.

The Islanders would attempt to mount a comeback, pressuring Talbot, but could not break through, and the Rangers came away with a crucial victory, giving them a chance to move into first place tomorrow.

Rick Nash, who had not scored a goal (excluding empty netters) since the February 20th victory against the Sabres, netted his eighth game winning goal this season. Nash leads the league in even strength goals (30), is tied for first in games with a goal (32), is second in the league in goals scored (39), and is tied for second in game winning goals.

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Rick Nash’s goal deflected off of Ryan Strome and past Halak, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead. That would turn out to be the final score. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Yet again, Kevin Hayes proved why he will develop into an elite player in the league, as well as why he was a first overall draft pick. The patience, poise, and confidence he plays with is astounding, and he continues to score big goals, including the tying goal tonight. Derick Brassard called in the “turning moment of the game,” and he was right. Hayes is centering a really strong third line that has stepped up while Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis continue to struggle. Kevin Hayes will be a very important part of the Rangers for years to come.

Mats Zuccarello’s assist on the Hayes goal extended his point streak to four games, with five assists in that span. Zuccarello is a fantastic possession player, but he was all over the ice tonight, making some great plays on defense as well. He is fifth on the team in scoring with 40 points (12-28-40). Zuccarello has delivered since his contract extension, and is making some fantastic plays.

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Mats Zuccarello had a tremendous game, setting up Kevin Hayes for his goal, and driving possession throughout the night. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

I thought Keith Yandle had a really solid defensive game. He consistently made smart plays with his stick and was just really strong overall. His tripping penalty on Frans Nielsen may have saved a goal, as he would have been alone on a breakaway. Yandle solidifies the Rangers defensive pairings, making them a better team from the back end.

The Rangers have put themselves in a great position to challenge for the best record in the Eastern Conference, and potentially the President’s Trophy for the best record in the NHL. They’re red hot, and will look to continue their success tomorrow night against the Washington Capitals.

THREE STARS

1) Mats Zuccarello – 1 A, +2, 2 SOG, 19:23 TOT

2) Cam Talbot – 29 SV, .967 SV%

3) Rick Nash – 1 G, 5 SOG, 18:34 TOT

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Posted on March 11, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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