The game Thursday night between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders was reminiscent of their records. The Rangers played with passion, were more focused and structured. The Islanders looked lost at times defensively and were very much a step behind the Blueshirts who dictated the pace. The result was a 4-2 Rangers victory, their third in a row.
Part of what makes a team bad besides a lack of talent is when it doesn't play tough and allows players to do whatever they want to get scoring chances. Brandon Dubinsky's second goal of the season, in the first period was an example of that as he took the puck from behind his own net all the way up the ice -- with Islanders weakly poke-checking him -- and snapped his goal past Evgeni Nabokov. It was his first in 17 games.
The Islanders cashed in early in the second period with a power-play goal from P.A. Parenteau, but even when it was tied it didn't feel like the game was ever out of the Rangers' grasp ... and it mostly was because of the Isles' effort.
Off an offensive-zone faceoff, Artem Anisimov pushed the puck forward and sent it across to Marian Gaborik -- an obvious set play that the opponent was dazed by -- for the easy tap-in goal. Gaborik is now tied for the league lead with 20 goals after scoring 22 last season. The Blueshirts essentially put this game out of reach when Michael Del Zotto blasted a slapshot off of a high flick-pass from Brandon Prust. Del Zotto played another sturdy game on defense, and he now has 17 points and a plus-20 rating on the year. The strides he's made since last season -- being stiffer defensively, simpler offensively have been tremendous. And he's only 21 years old.
The Isles would score again on the power play midway through the third period when Matt Moulson deposited his 16th at the front of the net as the Rangers couldn't clear the rebound from Martin Biron. John Mitchell would pot the empty-netter later in the period.
It would've been easy for the Rangers to look past this game with the Philadelphia Flyers coming to town Friday night. But they took one game at a time and took care of business against an inferior team whose effort gives indications that it could be another sad year on Long Island. Biron recorded his seventh win of the season, and his play has made it easy for coach John Tortorella to give Henrik Lundqvist rest -- which could be handy come the latter half of the season.