Things got a lot tougher for the New York Rangers (41–32–5) after they lost 6–2 to long-time rival the New York Islanders (30–36–12) on Thursday night at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Rangers winger Ryan Callahan spoke with MSG after the game, "We didn't have our execution, we're battling for the playoffs right now and there's no excuses. We have no choice but to be resilient and to fight back and put this one behind us."
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist added, "I'm very disappointed now in the way we played. I don't know what happened. We have to talk about this tomorrow and learn from it and move on."
After a rough defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres the night before, the Rangers looked tired as the upstart Islanders beat them to the puck and outplayed them for the majority of the game.
The Rangers also got zero help from their power play which was 0-for-6 on the night.
As is typical between these two teams, the game was characterized by high tensions as tempers flared and four fights broke out. The Rangers' Sean Avery received a bloodied eye from one scrum in the third period and was sent to the locker room for medical attention.
Former Rangers draft-pick Al Montoya was solid between the pipes for the Islanders making 25 saves.
The loss was a painful one for the Rangers who had already dropped into a tie with the Buffalo Sabres for eighth-place in the Eastern Conference. The Carolina Hurricanes also won on Wednesday, putting them right behind the Sabres and Rangers at ninth-place in an extremely tight playoff race.
The Rangers' road to the playoffs now hangs in the balance with four tough games remaining against the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Atlanta Thrashers, and New Jersey Devils.
The Rangers scored the first goal of the game off a quick shot by Vinny Prospal that beat Isles goalie Al Montoya on his left side at 14:25 in the first period.
The goal was huge for the Blueshirts who were taking a beating up until that point at the hands of a feisty Islanders squad that came out with momentum and nothing to lose.
But just as things looked positive for the Rangers, it all unraveled in the second period as they gave up two back-to-back goals to the Islanders at 3:21 and 3:57. On the plays, winger Blake Comeau beat Lundqvist with a deflection off the post, followed by defenseman Radek Martinek who ripped a slapshot that sailed over Lundqvist's left shoulder.
The Islanders then poured it on at the end of the period, scoring another two quick goals for the 4–1 lead—the first one coming at 13:28 as Martinek put a shot on Lundqvist that bounced off the stick of teammate Jesse Joensuu and into the net. The second goal came from former Rangers' winger P.A. Parenteau who beat Lundqvist tapping in a loose puck at 14:44.
The Islanders scored again in the third period as John Tavares drove to the net and put a shot on goal that was rebounded and tapped in midair by teammate Matt Moulsen at 8:38.
Mouslen's score was then followed by a wrist shot at the blue line by Trevor Gillies, which sailed behind Lundqvist at 14:00, making the score 6–1.
The Rangers got a meaningless goal at the end of the game as Brandon Prust reached out and poked the puck between Montoya's legs with seconds remaining.