Game #22: Rangers finally get best of Islanders in 5-0 shutout on Turkey Eve


I was thinking about a good way to start this post. By now, you’re all home following the first Rangers win over the Islanders since Oct. 13, 2016. They snapped an eight-game losing streak by shutting out their blood rivals, 5-0 at a less than sold out MSG. They drew 17,297 on the night before Thanksgiving.

Alexandar Georgiev recorded his first career NHL shutout with 29 saves. Most were easy due to a total team effort. He got plenty of support with big nights from Chris Kreider (goal, assist), Neal Pionk (power play goal, assist), Kevin Shattenkirk (2 assists), Cody McLeod (goal, fight), Filip Chytil (5th consecutive game with a goal) and Kevin Hayes (goal).

In searching for a movie reference that reminded me of what had been a one-sided rivalry with the Isles entering winners of eight straight and 11 of 12, I chose this short clip from one of my favorite films, The Devil’s Advocate. I think you’ll see the cruel irony in what happened to the Islanders much like Keanu Reeves’ character Neil Lomax at the epic conclusion.

He screams at the top of his lungs like a maniac at Al Pacino’s evil sinister John Milton, “Lose? I don’t lose! I win! I win! I’m a lawyer! That’s my job! That’s what I do!”

That quote sticks out for me. In many aspects, it applied to the Isles in Wednesday’s game. They’re so used to winning against the Rangers that maybe they were due for a bad night. It was time. The Rangers brought them and Islanders fans back to reality by methodically beating them 5-0. Adding insult to injury, they did it with their backup goalie, who’s good.

I really believe coach David Quinn knew exactly what he was doing when he chose to start Georgiev over Henrik Lundqvist. The message was simple. Do whatever it takes to get a win over this damn team. It worked like a charm. They never allowed the Islanders to get a clean chance until the third period. By then, it was 4-0 and Georgiev was locked in. He made a few good saves to earn the shutout, and then got chest bumped by a pumped up Kreider as they entered the locker room.

Before I even put it on due to catching the end of a great game won by a point by Gonzaga over Duke in Maui, Chytil had already scored in his fifth consecutive game. He had a pass come back to him for an easy finish past Robin Lehner only 29 seconds in.

Having flipped to MSG-Plus which had the Isles telecast with Brendan Burke and Butch Goring, once McLeod scored his first as a Ranger on a nice tip in front of a Tong DeAngelo shot, I decided not to change the channel. Sure. I could’ve easily switched to the Rangers feed on MSG 3, but I figured since they already led 2-0, maybe I’d be better off sticking with the Isles feed. Why not? Nothing else seemed to work whenever they played. A little reverse psychology did the trick.

Of course, listening to the rival broadcast can be annoying. But I found Goring’s commentary amusing. At first, he talked about how the Rangers were getting the bounces. While that was especially true after a bogus phantom slash on Leo Komarov resulted in a loose puck coming to Pionk, he absolutely wired his fourth past Lehner from Vladislav Namestnikov and Mika Zibanejad. That made it 3-0 at 8:04.

The Islanders spent the rest of the period getting back in it with a good forecheck. However, none of their 11 shots were good enough to beat Georgiev, who got help from both his defense and forwards. They were committed throughout, which by the third drew praise from Goring. Funny how a strong work ethic and attention to detail can result in well earned victories that the Rangers are getting. Even the doubters are taking notice.

When they did create some opportunities, they either hit the crossbar or missed the net completely. It was almost as if the Isles had turkey and gravy before tomorrow. They couldn’t shoot straight. But when they did, most of the shots went right into the bread basket of Georgiev.

There were only 10 total shots in the second with five apiece. The Rangers blocked a few and the Isles missed the net. It was eerie. Almost as if it were meant for them to finally win and send fans home happy for the holidays. You couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

When Hayes turned a Shattenkirk feed into an easy backhand tuck off a nice deke for his fifth goal at 17:17, that made it 4-0. For all intents and purposes, the game was over.

Islander frustration had already begun to boil over when tough guy Ross Johnston kept trying to goad McLeod into a fight. When it was 2-0 in the first, their paths crossed in front of the net during a scrum. McLeod turned down his initial challenge due to the score. Why would he fight with the Rangers up early? But by the halfway mark in the second, a clean McLeod hit that caught Johnston drew his ire. He chased him around until McLeod finally obliged. After McLeod took some hard shots from an aggravated Johnston, the refs somehow didn’t give him an instigator. Not that I care. But it’s in the rule book.

As for McLeod, he was the worse for wear with his left hand banged up enough to exit the contest for repairs. It didn’t look good. He was grabbing the side of it in some pain as he skated off to the locker room. I have a feeling we won’t be seeing him for a while. It’s too bad because the team has played well when he’s in, feeding off his energy. I guess someone will be called up for Friday’s match at Philadelphia unless Mats Zuccarello (groin strain) can go. He’s missed six of the last seven games.

Even though the shots were higher in the third, the Isles were clearly frustrated. Mathew Barzal took a good hit and looked upset. That’s how the Rangers played. They were tough. It resulted in a nice win.

Kreider finished it off in style with what’s becoming his signature goal. He skates out of the defensive zone with blazing speed and then pulls the trigger from the left circle and snaps a perfect shot short side, top shelf. Oops. He did it again like the Britney Spears hit. Off a Zibanejad clear, he flew down and blew his team-leading 12th past Lehner. That’s the third consecutive time he’s scored from that spot on that shot. It’s remarkable to see Kreider blossom in front of our eyes.

All that was left was the shutout, which Georgiev earned with 13 saves in the final period. Even better, his parents saw it, making the game extra special. For his trouble, he was named the game’s first star and donned the fancy dancy Broadway Hat in the winners room. Plus got a fist bump from Lundqvist after Kreider’s emphatic chest bump.

It’s a happy locker room. It should be. They gave Rangers fans the best Thanksgiving present of all.

Three Rangers Stars

3rd 🌟 Cody McLeod goal (1st as a Ranger), plus a fight

2nd 🌟 Chris Kreider goal (team best 12th), assist

1st 🌟 Alexandar Georgiev 29 saves for first career shutout

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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