PREVIEW: Islanders aim to get back on track vs. Rangers

By Field Level Media
Feb 6, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle (7) controls the puck against Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph (73) during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The latest installment of the rivalry between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers began with the teams trading dominating shutout victories at Madison Square Garden in the first two games of the season.

Both teams have experienced inconsistent performances since but are looking to follow up on solid performances Monday night when the Islanders visit the Rangers.

The Islanders scored three times in the first period for a 4-0 win on Jan. 14 and the Rangers countered by scoring two times apiece in the first and second periods for a 5-0 win on Jan. 16.

Following the first two matchups, the Islanders won two straight but then went 0-3-2 in their next five games, a stretch that included blowing a three-goal lead through 20 minutes by allowing five goals in the second period of a 6-3 loss at Washington on Jan. 28. The skid continued with a pair of overtime losses at Philadelphia and then ended with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night in their first game following consecutive postponements due to COVID-19 issues with the Buffalo Sabres.

“It was a big win for us because we stopped a little bit of a slide here,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said.

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Jordan Eberle scored twice in the first period, giving him five goals so far this season, and the Islanders overcame a 3-2 deficit by getting the tying goal from Cal Clutterbuck and the go-ahead tally on a power play by Anders Lee.

Saturday marked the third time the Islanders scored more than three goals.

“In this short season, you don’t want to get too far behind,” Eberle said. “We need to get on a roll and get back into it.”

The Rangers have found a way to win lately, are seeking a third straight victory and are 3-0-1 in their past four games. New York’s recent improvement follows a four-game skid (0-3-1) where it lost each game by one goal.

The Rangers have been idle since posting a 4-2 win over Washington on Thursday. They had a game at New Jersey postponed on Saturday due to COVID-19 issues with the Devils.

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After a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh on Monday, the Rangers took the lead 1:41 into Thursday’s game on a goal by Ryan Strome, who scored twice and has three of his goals in the past four games. Artemi Panarin added three assists and has nine points (three goals, six assists) over the past four games.

“I liked a lot about our game from the get-go,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “I thought we were all dialed in. I thought we were mentally and physically ready to go.”

Panarin leads the Rangers with 15 points and is heating up while Mika Zibanejad is off to a slow start with a goal and two assists after scoring a career-best 41 goals last season.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Rangers on Thursday was a second straight solid showing by goaltender Igor Shesterkin against the Capitals.

Shesterkin made 31 saves, including six of seven shots from Alexander Ovechkin. Since getting off to a shaky 0-2-1 start, Shesterkin has stopped 79 of 84 shots during a three-game winning streak and helped the Rangers kill off 10 penalties in the past two games.

Shesterkin started the first meeting with the Islanders while Alexandar Georgiev made 23 saves in the second meeting to improve to 6-2 in his career against the Islanders. Until the past two games, the Rangers alternated goaltenders.

–Field Level Media