True to the New York rivalry, the Rangers ensured they were the third NHL team to deprive the Islanders of their first win at their new UBS Arena.
While they may have been facing a minor league version of the Islanders lineup, which has been severely depleted in recent days due to a COVID-19 outbreak and a couple of long-term injuries, the Rangers handily took a 4-1 victory to secure their sixth win in their past seven games Wednesday night in the recently opened $1.1 billion arena at Belmont Park.
The Rangers’ new-look fourth line of Kevin Rooney, Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Reaves was buzzing all night, with Rooney recording the first two-goal game of his NHL career. Reaves assisted on both of Rooney’s tallies, marking Reaves’ first multi-point game as a Ranger and first since Jan. 2, 2018.
Chris Kreider continued to be an offensive juggernaut for the Rangers. After scoring his ninth power-play goal of the season early in the second period, which pulled him even with the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl for the NHL lead, Kreider extended the Rangers’ lead 4-1 at 11:02 of the third.
Seven of the Islanders’ 18 skaters Wednesday night are usually mainstays on the team’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. But after the coronavirus ravaged the lineup in the past week, sidelining seven of their core skaters — including Josh Bailey, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech — suddenly players like Robin Salo, Grant Hutton and Sebastian Aho are playing substantial minutes on the Islanders’ defense.
And when it rains, it pours. Shortly after learning they’d be without Brock Nelson for two to four weeks and Ryan Pulock for four to six weeks, the Islanders announced just before the start of the game that defenseman Noah Dobson was day-to-day with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
The Islanders’ most experienced blue-liner Wednesday night was Scott Mayfield.
It was a physical affair from puck drop, with the Islanders more than doubling the Rangers hit total, 11-5, through the opening 20 minutes. Not many teams have out-hit the Rangers this season, but given the state of the Islanders lineup, the home team tried to dial up the aggressiveness to mask the inexperience in its game.
Though it came against a barren Islanders squad, the Rangers were able to flash their newly acquired physicality. Even Alexis Lafreniere got involved, dropping the gloves with J-G Pageau after the Isles winger laid a big hit on Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren.
Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov entered Wednesday’s game with a 147:57 shutout streak against the Rangers dating back to last season. After it was extended to 167:57 following a scoreless first period, Kreider’s power-play goal 29 seconds into the middle frame ended the Rangers’ scoring drought against Varlamov.