While the New York Rangers spent Monday afternoon practicing with different line combinations, the New York Islanders spent Monday night pulling off an impressive comeback.
It is unknown if the Rangers will actually deploy their new lines Tuesday against the Islanders at Madison Square Garden, but whatever line combinations they employ, they hope to get off to a better start when the rivals meet for the second time this season.
The Rangers are 3-3-3 in their past nine games, and their past five games have seen them enter the third period tied. On Sunday, Kaapo Kakko and Mika Zibanejad scored in the first period, but the Rangers wound up with a 3-2 overtime loss to the visiting Detroit Red Wings three days after allowing four goals in the third period of a 5-2 home loss to the Boston Bruins.
Not only did the Rangers take their second straight loss, but coach Gerard Gallant thought the performance was so poor after the opening period that he put Zibanejad on the same line with fellow star Artemi Panarin.
When Gallant presided over Monday’s practice in the wake of a frustrating loss, Zibanejad and Panarin were together again on the top line with Kakko while Chris Kreider was on the third line with Filip Chytil and rookie Vitali Kravtsov. Chytil returned from what was believed to be a concussion Sunday, and Kravtsov may return after sustaining an upper-body injury on Oct. 29 in Dallas.
“I want everyone to be better, not just Chris Kreider,” Gallant said Monday. “Our leaders and top players, they’ve got to lead our team when we’re not playing well.
“That’s not giving the young guys or the bottom lines an excuse. We’re talking about the group, Chris went to the fourth line and other guys went to different spots. It wasn’t about Chris, it was about the team.”
Gallant also seemed non-committal about his line combinations for Tuesday, saying: “We’ll see what’s going to happen,” but that comment came less than 24 hours after he said: “Just trying to shake things up a little bit. Seeing if we can wake a few guys up.”
Kreider scored a career-high 52 goals last season and has four goals this season, though two were in the team’s second game of the season.
The Islanders are looking for a performance similar to the one that resulted in a 3-0 home win over the Rangers on Oct. 26. In that game, Kyle Palmieri scored twice and Ilya Sorokin made 41 saves for the victory. Starting with that contest, the Islanders are on a 6-1-0 run.
On Monday, the Islanders started slowly before storming back for a 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Calgary Flames. Defenseman Noah Dobson scored a power-play goal at 4:02 of OT after Anders Lee and Palmieri scored 59 seconds apart midway through the third.
“It’s a 60-minute game,” Lee said. “We found a way tonight. They’re not all going to be pretty, but we played a really good final 20.”
The Islanders pulled off their fourth comeback win of the early going as they survived allowing 46 shots on goal and withstood being outshot 30-12 through the first 40 minutes.
“You can’t play a slow 40 and play a really good third and expect to win each night in this league,” Dobson said. “Fortunately, we were resilient tonight. But (Tuesday), the start is going to be key.”
The Islanders are 10-4-1 in their past 15 meetings with the Rangers, including 6-1-0 at Madison Square Garden in that span.
–Field Level Media