Lots of juice for tonight's game, with both teams coming in hot; the Isles winners of four of their last five, the Rangers off a 5-1 homestand and playing stingy defense with their effective if not so entertaining trap. Also plenty of rough stuff expected on and off the ice. Fellow bloggers Tom Liodice and Mike Carey have set the over-under for fights in the stands at five. I'm taking the over.
This is actually the first Islanders-Rangers game I've been to in person in a couple of years and the place is rocking already as we await the puck to drop. Always depressing to see so many opposing jerseys in the crowd for a home game but that's the Isles' lot in life, so we deal with it. Still sucks, though.
Sillinger, Hilbert and Guerin out for the faceoff and here we go!
D.P. in goal to everyone's relief, and the Rangers are buzzing him early. Comrie with a chance for the Isles but can't keep the puck on his stick.
Almost five minutes in and we're still waiting for the first big hit - Hilbert almost had one on Staal but didn't get all of him. Comrie again in the middle of it, can't slide the puck across to Fedotenko, then D.P. stones Nigel Dawes - the pace is picking up. The teams at one point played six minutes without a whistle.
Just heard the first Potvin chant, in our own building. Inevitable, but it still hurts. I know we have the revised, anti-Ranger "When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" chant, but that one isn't enough for me. And the chicken dance is too obvious (plus, there's too much to explain to my 5-year-old). We need to come up with something a little sharper. There's your homework for tonight.
By the way, the Ice Girls just cleared the slush away from Henrik Lundqvist's crease without incident. Nice to see Henrik's grown as a person.
DiPietro stops Hossa in close with under 6 minutes left. Give the Rangers the edge in period one - they've had more of a presence in the offensive end and their chances have been more dangerous. Of course, as I type that Guerin has two good chances with around 3 minutes left. Then Comrie - again, in the middle of things - passes to Hunter in the left circle, he dekes but can't get it past Lundqvist with 2:13 on the clock.
Sutton takes a run at Prucha and just misses, so of course Prucha answers by boarding Richard Park with 1:26 left, Isles on the power play. Staal flattens Campoli on the far boards, period ends scoreless. Call round one a draw, with the two teams even on points with no knockdowns.
Second period about to start - here's something fun: Guy sitting in front of me has an Avery jersey. Guy in front of him has a DiPietro sweater on, holding up a sign that says, "Avery, you suck!"
Speaking of Mr. Olsen Twin, someone needs to tell him that stickhandling is not his forte. He ragged the puck from center ice, back into his own zone, looking ... looking, before dropping a backhand pass to no one that Sillinger picked off. No goal by the Isles, though.
Good chance by Ben Walter on the backhand, high shot hits Lundqvist in the shoulder. Then Sillinger another high shot stopped ... Witt levels Dawes in the Isles end, starts a break the other way but Comrie holds onto the puck through the high slot and can't get a good shot off. Pace hasn't changed from the first.
By the way, there's a certain free agent acquisition on the visitors who hasn't made much of an impression so far. Don't want to mention him by name as that would be a sure jinx, but he played last year across the river in the land of the Sopranos. Hope that narrows it down for you.
Scramble in front, D.P. covers the puck and there's shoving. We're seeing a bit more of that as the game goes on. By the way, that's recent Bridgeport call-up Tim Jackman, not Hugh, playing on the line with Simon and Walter. He has a chance in the crease but can't push it under Lundqvist.
Fedotenko called for tripping - dubious. Sure enough, Chris Drury scores with the man advantage, going five-hole on a slap shot from the left point off a pass from Mara. 1-0 Rangers. (I was thinking that Drury hadn't done much, either - then he scores.)
Jagr left alone in the circle on a 3-on-3 and the Rangers almost take a two-goal lead. Guernin veered off him - a mistake. Have to be aware of where Jagr is at all times.
Third period, Isles down by one. The Rangers played a tough game last night so you'd think the Isles would be the fresher team. First altercation of the night finally happened up in section 338, and we have an ejection. The under is looking good right now, but there's plenty of time left. I'm sitting tight with the over.
Hunter scores to tie it, his fourth goal of the season. Nice play by Fedotenko breaking in down the left wing, then sliding the puck to Hunter in the right circle, converting at the 1:11 mark. New ballgame, people. Satan with a good chance moments later, but Staal covers the open side of the net and blocks it.
Rangers answer, Jagr dishing to Dubinski at the right post but DiPietro drags the left pad and smothers it. But the Rangers regain the lead when Avery (damn) makes a nice pass to Mara, who snuck in from the point and was alone on the doorstep to deflect it past DiPietro. Jackman called for hooking at 5:54, and the Rangers best chance to add to the lead occurs when Jagr finds Drury for another slapper - D.P. gets a piece of it, then blocks a second chance at the right post.
Isles kill it - then Sutton is whistled for interference while Prucha is called for holding. Four-on-four action! Not for long - Girardi (not Joe, Dan) gets the box for high-sticking - four-on-three!
Comrie -- is he involved in EVERY scoring chance? -- holds the puck, drifting through the slot, then finds a wide-open Fedotenko, who just buries it. It's 2-2, a new game again.
DiPietro with the touchdown pass to Sillinger at the opposite blue line, he doesn't score. Can't see a damn thing since everyone is standing in front of me and Fedotenko's mug is on the big screen as his goal is announced. I guess Lundqvist made the stop. Wild.
SATAN! Isles take the lead! Vasicek starts the play by stealing the puck from Girardi and moving in for a shot. Isles keep it in and Satan is open in the high slot, and he fires a wrister that finds the top left corner. Great shot by Satan, who is really heating up. (FYI - two more fights in the stands in the last few minutes. It's getting testy up there.)
More fun blog facts - when the horn sounds after a goal, it's so loud my laptop freezes up for a second or two.
DiPietro stellar - stops Drury, then Dawes in front, then deflects the puck from Strudwick in the goalmouth with just over three minutes left. Rangers fans can yell "Suck!" all they want after the D.P. chant - he just came up HUGE.
Oszival called for holding with 2:05 left and even though the Isles are at home I'm half-expecting the make-up call. Isles work most of the advantage in the Rangers zone, but then with the goalie pulled and Jagr behind the net, Hunter is called for a penalty with 18.8 seconds left. Can't call it a make-up call, though.
Final chance for Rangers - the shot from the point by Drury goes wide, and that's it - YOUR FINAL SCORE: Islanders 3, Rangers 2.
Isles improve to 8-4 on the season and are now tied for first place in the division with the Flyers, with another divisional home game Saturday against the Devils.
ON WHAT NOLAN TOLD THE TEAM BEFORE THE THIRD PERIOD: Just keep to our game plan and keep working hard. I was in the trainer's room getting stitched up, though, so I missed most of it. (Jackman had a nasty gash below his right eye)
ON PLAYING IN AN ISLANDERS-RANGERS GAME: Unbelievable atmosphere out there. The fans were into it. A great experience.
ON FORCING THE ISSUE AGAINST A TEAM THAT HAD PLAYED THE NIGHT BEFORE: The key thing was to get the puck deep in their end and make them work. It takes three periods. I thought we played well and it was a great win.
ON PLAYING THE FOURTH LINE WITH SIMON AND BEN WALTER: I thought we played well. I played with Simon a couple of exhibition games, so I think we were on the same page.
Jackman added that he was told Monday afternoon that he'd be playing on the big club.
I thought we played a real strong game going into the third period. Ricky certainly made some big, big saves for us. But this was a total team effort.
We wanted to roll four lines and see what happens. The fourth line played real well tonight. This is a really good character-type of team.
ON SATAN: The last couple of games, he's hot. And it's a good time now because we get to play a lot. We have three lines that can pop some goals in for us.
The biggest play was when Ricky shut the door with a 3-2 lead.
ON WALTER AND JACKMAN: Both of those guys deserved an opportunity and they're taking advantage of it.
ON HUNTER: He may not have a letter on his shoulder, but he's definitely one of our leaders.
ON THE TEAM'S MAKEUP: Garth did a tremendous job getting some character guys over the summer ... So far, so good.