The New York Islanders moved to the Barclays Center prior to the 2015-16 season. Despite the New York Rangers finishing with a better record in the campaign, the Islanders defeated New York in both meet-ups at the new digs. The Rangers will look to win the third showdown tonight.
After dominating the Islanders in the 2013-14 season, the New York Rangers’ performance against their chief rivals took a turn. The Islanders won 3 of 5 meetings in the 2014-15 season, then all four contests in 2015-16. The majority of the games were close, but the Islanders prevailed.
To start the 2016-17 season, the Rangers were tasked with slaying their personal giants, the cross-state rival Islanders. In their first true test of the season, the Rangers came out on top with a 5-3 victory. Prior to the season opener, the Islanders had won four in a row at Madison Square Garden. Two of the losses came at the end of the season, with a March loss stinging the most.
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After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Rangers battled back to cut the lead to 3-2, only to see Johnny Boychuk extend the lead to 4-2. The Rangers did not let up and managed to even the game early in the third period for a dramatic comeback. Cal Clutterbuck ended the Rangers rally with a late snapper past Antti Raanta to give the Islanders another road win.
The game was one of many recent close contests between the rivals in the past two seasons. The Barclays Center may be new, but it is also home to a pair of spirited affairs.
When the Rangers first arrived at the Barclays Center, it took over 65 minutes of play to determine a winner. John Tavares and Viktor Stalberg scored the only goals in regulation, and the Rangers failed to capitalize on a power-play in overtime. The result was a shootout, one that ended in an Islanders victory.
Only one skater found the back of the net in the shootout, the now Buffalo Sabre Kyle Okposo. Okposo also scored a goal in the second meeting between the rivals at the Barclays Center.
This time the Rangers jumped out to the lead with less than a minute remaining in the third period. The Rangers were in shambles, however, constantly struggling to hold leads. The Islanders took advantage of the trend, scoring early in the third period. What followed was an unacceptable roughing minor taken by former Ranger Dylan McIlrath, and an Islanders power-play goal to boot. Yet another close game, yet another Islanders win.
Now, the Rangers are among the top teams in the NHL, while the Islanders are in panic mode. Michael Grabner has helped kickstart the Rangers offense, giving his new team another lethal weapon to use against his former team. Meanwhile, the Islanders are devoid of skilled forward, also misusing the few they have.
Tonight’s game won’t be your regular battle for spotting in the standings, instead serving as another hard-fought affair between bitter rivals. The Rangers will look for their first win at the Barclays Center, with the Islanders looking to re-gain their identity and stranglehold over the Rangers.