Preview: Rangers at Islanders
The New York Rangers don't always get the New York Islanders' best shot, but it certainly seems that way in what has turned into a lopsided rivalry. After scoring a late goal to eke out a narrow victory at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, the Islanders vie for a sweep of the home-and-home series against the visiting Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
Josh Bailey scored with 86 seconds to play on the Islanders' first shot of the period in Thursday's 4-3 win as they improved to 13-2-0 in the last 15 matchups against the Rangers. "We want to be peaking at the right time and playing our best hockey coming up here," Bailey said. "You're going to have your moments where you're maybe not at your best, but in those moments, good teams around the league find a way to win." The Rangers fought back from a pair of one-goal deficits before absorbing their fifth consecutive defeat overall and ninth in 10 games against the Islanders. "We've got to work hard with the mental aspect of this to move past this tonight -- we cannot let this get in the way of our performance on Saturday," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "You can't let them win two games tonight."
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ESPN Plus, MSG, MSG Plus2 (New York)
ABOUT THE RANGERS (17-19-7): New York was mauled by five goals in three straight losses before putting together solid efforts in the last two setbacks to Vegas and the Islanders, heightening the team's frustrations. “We played two really good games,” forward Mats Zuccarello said. “But at the end of the day, I’d rather play a (lousy) game and get two points. But right now, we can’t seem to find a way to win. When you’re in a tough stretch, that’s how it goes. I wish I had the answer.” Rookie center Brett Howden has been held off the scoresheet for 10 straight games and has only four assists in the last 25.
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (24-14-4): Second-year center Mathew Barzal scored one goal and set up two others in Thursday's win, giving him nine goals and five assists over the past nine games. "I thought he played the right way, he had the puck all night, lots of legs and all that," coach Barry Trotz said after Barzal had his third three-point game in the past seven. "His line was really good. You look at the scoresheet and you can see his line and his linemates, that's where all the points are." Barzal, like his team, has tormented the Rangers during his brief career with 14 points in seven matchups.
1. Islanders G Robin Lehner has allowed 11 goals in winning a career-high eight straight decisions.
2. Rangers rookie F Filip Chytil collected an assist Thursday for only his second point in nine games.
3. The Islanders have won seven straight at home versus the Rangers, the longest streak since an eight-game run in 1991 and 1992.
PREDICTION: Islanders 4, Rangers 2