Bad Apples: Rangers host Islanders (Oct 19, 2017)

NEW YORK — When the New York Islanders and New York Rangers meet, there is never a shortage of intensity and energy.

With the way each team has started the 2017-18 season, there may be even more desperation than usual Thursday for an October matchup.

The Islanders will visit Madison Square Garden with two wins in six games. The reeling Rangers have one win in seven games, making the two points available in this contest particularly meaningful.

“As a team, if you don’t win games early on, you’re gonna go through some confidence issues,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said to the New York Daily News. “I think we’ve played some good periods of hockey, we’ve done some good things. We haven’t found the confidence to finish out a game and go after it and get a win. Go out in the third period and get a win. We haven’t done that. It’s something we’ve got to work toward and find.”

The Rangers were less than a minute from a potentially uplifting win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, but they relinquished the lead late in regulation and lost in overtime to fall to 1-5-1, the first time they have lost six of seven to start a season since 1959-60.

“You just have to focus on the good things,” Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “We are doing a lot of good things. As a team we played really well (against Pittsburgh). I think personally it was a good game, but then you give up the late one and a minute later it’s over in overtime. We were really close to responding the way we need right now, we just have to do it in the next game.”

The Islanders (2-3-1) have been better, but not by much. They scored only seven goals on their three-game California road trip, but three came in one game against the San Jose Sharks and resulted in a 3-1 victory. Otherwise, the scoring woes have been hampering the team in nearly every game.

The offensive problem starts with the top line of John Tavares, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee. They have combined for four goals — Eberle has yet to score — while Andrew Ladd (one goal) and Josh Ho-Sang (zero) have not produced as expected.

“It starts with shooting the puck,” Islanders coach Doug Weight told Newsday. “We have some guys that can fire it, and we have to start moving it around a little quicker and firing pucks on net.”

Compounding the problem is special teams. The Islanders are 0-for-20 on the power play — the only other team without a power-play goal this season is the Anaheim Ducks — and they have allowed three short-handed goals. The Rangers may be the perfect recipe for the Islanders to jump-start the power play, as the Rangers are ranked 30th (74.1 percent) in penalty killing.

“The power play’s been letting us down so far,” Tavares said to Newsday. “Some good things at times, other times we’re not executing and other times we’re not getting good bounces. It’s a combination of a few things. All we can do is wake up tomorrow, find a way to turn the tide and get better.”