Rangers playoff hopes take hit with loss
Radek Martinek and P.A. Parenteau both had a goal and assist during the Islanders’ four-goal second period, and New York put the area-rival Rangers back into postseason peril with a 6-2 victory Thursday night.
After Blake Comeau got the Islanders even 1-1 at 3:24, Martinek put them in front 33 seconds later.
Things settled down for a bit, but the Islanders struck for two more goals 1:16 apart – the first by Jesse Joensuu at 13:28 and the second by Parenteau to turn it into a rout. Matt Moulson scored his 31st goal of the season against backup Chad Johnson with 11:22 left, and Trevor Gillies made it 6-1 at 14:00.
Even a one-goal deficit seemed daunting to the Rangers, who lost for the second time in two nights.
The Rangers were seemingly cruising for a playoff spot on the strength of an 8-1-1 spurt, but have dipped to eighth in the Eastern Conference and lead Carolina by three points with four games remaining. Carolina has five games to play in the final 10 days.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist shook off an injury to his leg sustained Wednesday at Buffalo to make his career-high 22nd straight start, but allowed four goals on 22 shots in two periods. He was replaced by Johnson to begin the third.
More troubling for the Rangers is the lack of offense. They have scored only five goals in five games, including two shutout losses and three 1-0 finishes. New York had scored 17 in its previous three games.
Vinny Prospal gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first and Brandon Dubinsky scored in the final minute but that was all the playoff-hopefuls could muster against the also-ran Islanders, who lost 3-2 at New Jersey on Wednesday.
Al Montoya, who was drafted by the Rangers, stuck it to his former club by making 25 saves. It was a good bounce-back effort for Montoya, beaten 6-3 by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 15.
The Rangers scored the goal they couldn’t get during a 1-0 loss at Buffalo with 5:35 left in the first period on their fifth shot. Marian Gaborik’s drive from Montoya’s left bounced into the right circle to Prospal, who quickly fired a shot that found its way past Montoya about waist high inside the right post. Prospal’s sixth snapped the Rangers’ goal-less drought at 127 minutes, 46 seconds – dating to the first period of a 1-0 win at Boston last Saturday.
Gaborik was then involved in an uncharacteristic play when he struck Islanders forward Frans Nielsen with a shoulder hit to the back while Nielsen was facing the boards a few feet away. Nielsen went facefirst into the boards by the penalty and fell to the ice. Gaborik also went down and was then jumped by Martinek, who came to Nielsen’s defense.
Nielsen was ruled out of the game because of a head injury, and Gaborik received four minutes in penalties.
The Islanders gave the Rangers plenty of chances to build a lead with a string of undisciplined penalties, including two that handed the Rangers a 5-on-3 advantage for over a minute in the first.
The Rangers were 0 for 6 on the power play in the first two periods and skated off after 40 minutes down 4-1 and outshot 22-16 in front of a large contingent of loud fans that tried to spur them on.
Rangers coach John Tortorella was angry with the performance of his club at Buffalo and couldn’t have liked Thursday’s game, either.
Comeau started the barrage for the Islanders, who were eliminated from postseason competition Saturday. Travis Hamonic’s shot deflected off Josh Bailey to Comeau for a goal into the open left side.
Martinek then fired in a shot from the right circle, off a cross-zone pass from Parenteau, to make it 2-1. Martinek then ripped a drive from the right point that hit Joensuu and caromed past Lundqvist, and Parenteau swept in a loose puck to push the Islanders’ lead to three goals.
Notes: Lundqvist had allowed only two goals in four games. … D Dylan Reese had three assists. He entered with only one point this season. … The Rangers were outshot 7-1 in the first 10 minutes. … LW Wojtek Wolski was a healthy scratch for the second time since being acquired by the Rangers on Jan. 10. He hasn’t scored in 14 games. … Michael Grabner, tied with Moulson for the Islanders lead in goals, sat out for the second straight night awaiting the birth of his son. … The Islanders lost four of six to the Rangers. … Islanders D Ty Wishart was lost to a shoulder injury.