Sometimes, there is no particular reason for a loss other than the team on the other end. Sometimes, no matter how high the stakes, there is no amount of hustle that can match what’s coming from the opposite bench.
So was the case for the Rangers on Thursday night at the Garden, as they fell 4-0 in the first of two games with the seasoned Islanders, who extinguished the Blueshirts at every turn to pull ahead of them by seven points in the East Division standings.
Much like the beatdown they took at the Coliseum last week, the Rangers were overpowered, outmaneuvered and, quite frankly, outplayed by the Islanders. The cost? Slipping to six points behind the Bruins, who have two games in hand and defeated the Sabres on Thursday to further cement themselves into the third playoff spot.
It was a price the Rangers had no choice but to pay, because the Isles traveled to Manhattan with no other purpose but to collect.
Maybe it was the three straight losses they surrendered to the first-place Capitals, or that they were suddenly in a sort of playoff race with the Rangers, but the Islanders did not give an inch for 60 minutes. They contested every shot, pressured every breakaway, and met every Rangers’ move with force.
Even when the Rangers managed to get some extended zone time, there was never not a stick in their way or an Islanders sweater in the shooting lanes. And even when they pulled goalie Igor Shesterkin with over 6 ½ minute left in regulation while on a power play, Islanders star center Mathew Barzal hopped out of the box and scored an easy empty-net goal to finish off the night.
It only got easier for the Isles, with the Rangers losing one of their last physical presences in the lineup in Ryan Lindgren early in the third period. The 23-year-old defenseman headed to the locker room after a collision with Cal Clutterbuck sent his head crashing into the curved part of the boards by the Rangers’ bench.
The Islanders built a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes and the Rangers failed to push back. With just seven shots in the first, three from Ryan Strome, three from the bottom six and one from Lindgren, the Rangers’ big guns were nowhere to be found. That didn’t change.
A one-timer from Anthony Beauvillier just over a minute into the second period made it a 3-0 game, which put a the game out of reach for a Rangers squad had been averaging roughly four goals a game lately.
The Rangers dragged their feet through the mud with two penalties in the first period, including a rare tripping call on Artemi Panarin at 2:56. The early power play gave the Islanders some zest, which led to Leo Komarov’s first goal of the season off a one-timer from his knees that went top shelf on Shesterkin for the 1-0 lead.
And when handed their second man-advantage opportunity of the period, the Isles didn’t let this one pass them by. It was the second unit that got it done, with Oliver Wahlstrom wristing the puck from the top of the left circle at 12:39 to double the score.
Originally published at https://nypost.com/2021/04/29/rangers-manhandled-by-islanders-nhl-playoff-hopes-take-hit/ on .