Palmieri’s goal with 2:44 left gives Islanders win over Rangers in playoff style game, Sorokin highlight reel save on Panarin the talk, Kreider gets number 40 in tough defeat


It’s not often a goalie outshines Igor Shesterkin. Especially this season when he’s the leading Vezina candidate with 21 games left. However, it was his Russian friend Ilya Sorokin who was the story in tonight’s game. His highway robbery on Artemi Panarin was part of a great game.

Unfortunately, the Rangers didn’t win. Instead, the hated rival Islanders spoiled the fun thanks to a late goal from Kyle Palmieri to prevail 2-1 before an energized MSG. His goal with 2:44 left in regulation made Sorokin a winner. He earned it by making many tough saves en route to 29 to get the better of Shesterkin, who was stellar as well. He made 26 saves.

Sometimes, that’s the breaks. The Rangers probably deserved a better fate. They played a really good 60-minute game against an Islanders foe that’s been playing better. Since getting healthier, they’re winning more than earlier. So, it wasn’t a surprise that this was a hard fought game.

If there was a gripe, the officiating wasn’t good at all. The refs made two tacky calls on each side and missed more blatant stick infractions. One was a Mat Barzal cross check on Mika Zibanejad in a tie game. He let them know about it during a stoppage.

The other was an elbow Ryan Lindgren took from Oliver Wahlstrom that cut him. Whether it was incidental or not, he had a legit beef. Predictably, Palmieri scored the game-winner on the same shift. Lindgren fumed at the officials following the goal.

Let’s be fair here. When it comes down to it, the stripes have a tough job. It is a fast game. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. The officials are going to miss some calls. It happens with regularity. You hope it’s not something that leads to a winning goal. That was the case tonight.

The thing is the games are getting tougher. They always do. The closer we get to Spring with the playoffs around the corner, there are going to be fewer penalties called. Whether you agree or not, the standard changes.

I’ve always been consistent in wanting the blatant stick fouls called over the petty obstruction crap that sometimes isn’t a penalty. Ask both Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson about that. Their penalties late in the second were bogus. Exactly why both Kreider and Anders Lee were on the refs at the conclusion of the period.

Let’s not get carried away and blame the refs. That’s not why the Rangers lost. They simply didn’t find a second goal on Sorokin. There were plenty of opportunities. But he was brilliant. He’s quietly had a very good season for a team that won’t be in the postseason. It’s flown under the radar.

The feeling following a one-goal defeat to the bleeping Islanders is always the same. Insert curse words. Or slam something out of frustration. I actually did because I was disgusted. But nothing over the top. It’s never fun to lose to your biggest riva4l. Especially when every win and point matters. It was a missed opportunity.

As far as how the game was played, I have no complaints. The Rangers played well enough to win. They had more of the play at even strength. The forecheck was there in Frank Vatrano’s Rangers debut. He wore the same number he did with the Panthers. That would be number 77. Forget the silly conspiracy theories over Tony DeAngelo, who they’ll probably see on Sunday in Raleigh.

If you love good skating, clean hitting, strong goaltending and little to no stoppages, then the first period was a treat. It was so competitive during most shifts.

You also had a couple of thumping hits from Ryan Reaves, who caught Cal Clutterbuck with a clean reverse check. He then nailed the towering Zdeno Chara on the same shift. The crowd loved it. So did Reaves, who heard it from Chara as they went to their respective benches. It wasn’t the only run-in. Good hockey at a good atmosphere in a rivalry that matters.

As good as the checking was, how about the improved forecheck from the Rangers. In his first appearance with the Blueshirts, Vatrano was effective throughout. He debuted playing the right side on the second line with Strome and Artemi Panarin. They generated chances with Panarin attempting seven shots while Strome had a near miss on a redirect.

Frankie Vatrano only wound up with one shot on net. But he looked good with the Bread Man and Strome. He also got some power play time on the second unit with Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, Barclay Goodrow and K’Andre Miller. He had one attempt go high over the net. He has a shoot first mentality. That should help the offense.

Maybe the most frustrating aspect of the opening 20 minutes was how well they played. But Sorokin kept it scoreless. His diving stick save on Panarin (as seen above) was of the highlight reel variety. At the time, I was listening to the action in the car with Justin. We could tell by both Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney’s reaction how good it was. Maloney raved about it. It was even better when we put the game on to catch the replay.

He got it with the paddle while being almost on his back. Remarkable. It wasn’t a goal because Sorokin somehow reached out with his paddle and got a piece of it. That kind of key stop in a low scoring game like Thursday can be momentum turning. It definitely was.

In a period they controlled by holding a 12-7 edge in shots, the Rangers still were held off the scoreboard. They could’ve had a couple of goals. Sorokin also denied Mika Zibanejad and Strome in tight.

The best save from Shesterkin came when he stoned Palmieri who was dangerous. He’s been on a good roll lately. After only scoring one goal in his first 29 games, he’s gotten 10 since. He absorbed a big check from Reaves during the first as well. Reaves was a human wrecking ball with five of his seven hits coming in the first period. This was his best hockey in a while.

Late in the period, Goodrow got nabbed for hooking into Barzal. The game’s first penalty with 70 seconds left didn’t result in much initially for the Islanders. To their credit, the Rangers’ penalty killers got the job done to end the period.

However, with a fresh sheet of ice, the Islanders took advantage to take the lead. With the power play about to expire, some good passing from Noah Dobson and Barzal led to Lee sniping his 23rd by Shesterkin 49 seconds into the second. They left him open in the slot and he buried the one-timer over Shesterkin for a 1-0 Isles lead.

After the goal, the Islanders had a couple of chances to increase their lead. But Barzal was wide on one shot and then stopped by Shesterkin on a second attempt. The speedy top center made life difficult. He was good throughout. He would later nearly set up Wahlstrom only for a sprawling Shesterkin to get over and stack the pads. His best save of the game.

A good Chytil play led to Adam Pelech taking a minor for holding. However, the first Rangers power play was mind numbing. The Islanders took away time and space. Only Adam Fox got a shot on Sorokin that he had no trouble with.

The Rangers continued to finish checks. They got a good scoring chance from the Chytil line. The only gripe was why didn’t Dryden Hunt take a wide open shot from the high slot. Instead, he passed. Chytil got a backhand on Sorokin that he handled. A missed opportunity.

Sorokin would later stop Kreider. He also was stoned by the Islanders starter on a breakaway during a power play. It was on that second man-advantage that Kreider stayed on to draw the Rangers even.

With Scott Mayfield off for an ill advised interference minor by hitting Vatrano late, the Rangers’ leading finisher decided to extend his shift. While the rest of his unit changed, Kreider stayed on. It paid off.

On a quick up from Jacob Trouba, Alexis Lafreniere fed a flying Kreider who fired a wrist shot from the left circle that snuck in short side low blocker on Sorokin to tie the game at 13:38. This was a fantastic shot. It also was number 40 for Kreider. His league-leading 21st power play goal tied the game with 6:21 left in the second.

The physicality continued. Reaves finally paid back Mayfield for his foolish penalty. The feisty Mayfield returned the favor on a heated shift for the Rangers’ fourth line. Everybody was hitting. Lafreniere got one on Anthony Beauvillier. Then Pelech returned the favor on Lafreniere.

It was that kind of game. Grit was on display. The teams combined for 48 hits (27-21 Rangers). The Islanders blocked 16 shots. They were a pain in the ass. That’s what you expect from a Barry Trotz coached team. The Rangers only had nine by comparison. That was due to them having the puck more.

Two brutal calls were then made late in the period. First, Strome got called for a phantom rough on Dobson. We get on him a lot for his penchant for bad penalties. When Micheletti laughed at the replay, you knew it was bad.

Fortunately, the penalty kill was better this time around. With the Isles still on the power play, this time it was Nelson who was sent off for a nothing interference on Zibanejad. The definition of a make up call. That’s basically what Maloney said during intermission on ESPN Radio. The feeling was both penalties were bogus calls.

With the game still even entering the third, it set up a good finish. But it didn’t go the right way. Instead, the Islanders found a way to stay with the Rangers and get the gut wrenching goal that left a bad taste in your mouth.

In a very evenly played period where both Sorokin and Shesterkin were good, the difference turned out to be a fluke play. Following a Sorokin stop on Panarin, it was the Islanders who caught a break when Wahlstrom got his elbow up with Lindgren closing in on him along the side boards.

Could it have been called by the linesmen? Sure. Was it accidental? Perhaps. However, Lindgren was cut and continued playing on the extended shift. With the Isles on the forecheck, Pelech got the puck to Ryan Pulock. In traffic, he took a strange shot that seemed to hang in the air before it came right to Palmieri who redirected it in with 2:44 remaining.

It was a bit perplexing. It didn’t feel like anything would happen. All Pulock did was shoot the puck and it took an Islanders bounce with Palmieri doing the rest for the game-winner. Not much else to add.

As much as Lindgren yelled at the refs, the Rangers still were able to pull Shesterkin for an extra attacker. But the Islanders made it tough. They defended well and even came close to getting the empty netter. Only some hustle prevented it.

A Zibanejad shot from an angle with two seconds left was stopped by Sorokin for his final save. The only shot he saw after denying Panarin with 3:44 remaining. That’s not good enough.

The Rangers got no points out of this game. They played well enough, but ultimately fe short. Disappointing. That’s all to say.

Of course, the Pens came back to win at Nashville in a shootout. So, they’re up to 83 points in second while the Rangers remain at 81 with an extra game left. Don’t forget the three remaining meetings between the rivals. That’ll likely determine home ice. With the Caps winning again, they’re up to 78 with 20 games left. It’s going to be a photo finish.

There’s no time to think. The Rangers have the first place Hurricanes on Sunday. A team that handled them once. DeAngelo will probably play for Rangers South. He didn’t play in tonight’s 3-2 loss at Toronto. But is said to be close to ready. You know he doesn’t want to miss the second meeting versus his former team.

Right now with 21 games remaining and one before the big March 21 deadline, the Blueshirts have at the Lightning Saturday and then the Canes Sunday. The final two games before Armageddon.

They’ve been reportedly linked to veteran Alex Radulov. Why? He’s had a lousy season for Dallas. I’d like to see them in on someone else. I don’t mean a left defenseman that’s going to cost essentially what the Panthers paid Montreal for Ben Chiarot. They’re a legit Cup contender who’s all in. The Rangers have to be careful here. Add what you can that’s reasonable.

That’s going to do it for now. If anything earth shattering happens, I’ll have it up on here. Until then, Happy Saint Patty’s Day! Happy Purim!

BATTLE Of Hudson Three Stars 🌟 🤩 ✨️

3rd 🌟 Chris Kreider, Rangers career best 40th goal for NHL-leading 21st PPG, 5 SOG in 19:44

2nd 🌟 Kyle Palmieri, Islanders game-winning goal (11) with 2:44 left in regulation, 4 SOG, +1 in 12:52

1st 🌟 Ilya Sorokin, Islanders 29 saves on 30 shots including 24 for 24 even strength and highway robbery on Panarin

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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