New York Rangers fast start downs Islanders 4-2 for first preseason win

NHL: Preseason-New York Islanders at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers came into tonight’s matchup against the rival New York Islanders looking to get their first win of the preseason.

After a flurry of goals to open the game, followed by a lot physical play and solid defense, along with key contributions from new additions led the Rangers to a 4-2 victory over their crosstown counterparts. Coach Peter Laviolette’s new system shined through as the coaching staff earned themselves their first postgame handshakes.

“It was pretty exciting,” Laviolette said afterwards. “I thought the game was cleaner (than against Boston). We moved the puck a little bit quicker and skated better.”

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New York Rangers 4 vs New York Islanders 2

NHL: Preseason-New York Islanders at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers came out flying in the first period, scoring three goals in the game’s opening three minutes. The first tally came just 15 seconds into the period, on an unassisted goal from Kaapo Kakko.

“You always want to win the game,” Kakko explained. “It was a good forecheck. Foxy played tight and got the puck. Fast goal.”

A minute and two seconds later, Tyler Pitlick cashed in a goal off of a rebound, his first in a Rangers sweater, at 1:17. The assists came from new defenseman Erik Gustafsson and assistant captain Barclay Goodrow. It is important to note that Gustafsson, a former player of Laviolette’s, is battling for the sixth spot on the Rangers defense. A primary assist early on in this game certainly helps his cause.

Promising young forward Brennan Othmann set the tone with a huge body check behind the Islanders net, drawing the ire of the Isles’ Grant Hutton, who came in to retaliate. With both players in the penalty box for offsetting minors, Chris Kreider picked up right where he left off last season on the ensuing 4 on 4. Stealing the puck from the Islanders defense, Kreider walked in all alone on a breakaway and tucked in a backhand for the Rangers’ third goal of the period coming at 3:10.

Although he didn’t earn a point, Othmann had a great game, playing fast and with an edge.

“I felt better out there than I did in the rookie game,” Othmann admitted. “I was physical and I created good chances, but I have to shoot the puck a little bit more.”

At 11:18 on an Islanders’ powerplay, an errant shot hit the back boards and ricocheted perfectly to William Dufour giving him an open net which saw the Rangers lead cut to two with one second left on the man advantage. Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin was close, but could not stretch far enough to save the off-angle shot.

The period ended with the Rangers heading to the locker room up 3-1. It’s safe to say the Rangers-Islanders rivalry didn’t taken a day off despite it being just a preseason contest.

After a solid penalty kill from the Rangers to start the second period, the New York rivalry continued to heat up as Matt Rempe and Ross Johnston decided to drop the gloves after having some words at the end of the first. Rempe is a big-bodied forward that’s earning a reputation as a rugged fourth-liner willing to fight any taker.

Shortly following the heavyweight bout that had Rempe urging the Garden Faithful to get loud, Blake Wheeler netted his first goal in a Rangers sweater. It came off of a beautiful spin-o-rama pass from Jake Leschyshyn at 5:01 with Brennan Othmann playing a significant role by forechecking hard and leading to a turnover.

“It was five guys being aggressive on the ice,” Wheeler said. “As a new guy, it’s nice to see one go in.”

The Islanders pushed back, but solid goaltending from Igor Shesterkin kept the game’s score at 4-1. At the 10:22 mark of the middle stanza, Shesterkin ended his night with 10 saves on 11 shots. Dylan Garand replaced him to finish out the contest, en route to an 11 save performance.

The game seemed to slow down in the second half of the period as neither team could generate much offense. The Rangers defensive play was solid throughout the night, and the defensemen were noticeably joining the rush to the delight of Laviolette, who stresses this in the implementation of his systems.

New York ended the second period with a solid 4-1 lead on a 24-12 shot advantage.

The slow style of play carried over into the third as there were little to no scoring chances being created for either team. Although things became interesing after a nice passing play cut the lead in half. Arnaud Durandeau lit the lamp at 12:30 mark as the backside was left wide open, leaving no chance for Garand to make the stop.

The Islanders made one last push, pulling their goalie with two minutes left in the period, but the Rangers were able to hold them off and earn their first win of the preseason with a final score of 4-2.

The Rangers next exhibition match comes Thursday night when they take on another rival and revisit last year’s playoff nightmare against the New Jersey Devils. Puck drop is set for 7:00PM EST at Madison Square Garden.

Rangers Notes

  • Blake Wheeler finished with 1 goal on 3 shots
  • Tyler Pitlick scored 1 goal on 2 shots and was a +1
  • Kaapo Kakko scored on his only shot and was the game’s first star
  • Brennan Othmann was a +2

The New York Rangers will have a day off on Wednesday.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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