If hockey games were 40 minutes long, the New York Rangers might actually have a solid record at this point.
In a cruel twist, however, hockey games last 60.
John Tavares and Jordan Eberle scored in the game deciding shootout, while Jaroslav Halak took care of the rest, and the Rangers dropped their fourth consecutive game, losing 4-3 to the New York Islanders on Thursday night. Though it’s the Rangers’ fourth straight loss, they have points in back-to-back games this season.
The Rangers (1-5-2) didn’t allow another opening minute goal, but fell behind early nonetheless. After Chris Kreider took an early penalty, hooking Calvin De Haan, Anders Lee took advantage, scoring the Islanders’ first power play goal of the season. Though the Rangers were able to tie it, as David Desharnais tipped in a Kevin Shattenkirk slap shot, the Islanders (3-3-1) took the lead back just 64 seconds later, with Brock Nelson scoring his fourth of the season.
It turned out to be a bit of a night of firsts for the Islanders, as Matthew Barzal opened the second period with his first career goal. Andrew Laad would give the Rangers a power play when he slashed Tony DeAngelo, but the Rangers were unable to capitalize.
The Rangers finally were able to resuscitate a dormant Madison Square Garden crowd when Brendan Smith took advantage of an Islander turnover, getting it to Mats Zuccarello to slice the lead in half. Smith thought he retied the game with one past Halak, but a review determined he put it in with a distinct kicking motion, rendering the score void. The Rangers did the game for real when Kevin Hayes put one in with just under six minutes left in regulation. A couple of key saves by Henrik Lundqvist in the final minute ensured the Rangers’ single point.
The Blueshirts had their opportunities in overtime, but winning chances by Zuccarello and Kreider were denied by Halak. Rangers pressure was forced to end when Rick Nash was one man too many, giving the Rangers a too many men on the ice penalty. The Rangers were able to kill the abbreviated power play off, sending the game to a shootout.
In the shootout session, Halak had a “distinct kicking motion” of his own, putting in a Zuccarello shot in the first round. However, Eberle tied for the Islanders before Tavares fired one in just below the crossbar to create the 2-1 margin. Mika Zibanejad was unable to score after Eberle’s tally, and Desharnais’s final attempt was meekly stymied by Halak, setting off the Islander celebration.
After getting swept last season, this was the Rangers fifth consecutive loss to the Islanders. The two teams will meet again on January 13 for an afternoon game at MSG.
The Rangers will take the ice once more on Saturday afternoon, when the Nasville Predators visit (12:30 PM, MSG).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490