Carl Hagelin returned to the Rangers lineup Tuesday night on Long Island and assisted on Benoit Pouliot's game-winning goal late in the third period as the Rangers rallied past the Islanders 3-2 at the Nassau Coliseum. The win was the Rangers second in their past three games, and came 24 hours after a disappointing defeat in their home opener.
Cam Talbot made the start in goal for the Rangers and quickly was indoctrinated into the Rangers-Islanders rivalry while Monday night's starter Henrik Lundqvist watched from the sidelines. Talbot was calm and cool in turning aside 22 shots as the Rangers erased a one-goal third-period deficit---similar to their road victory in Detroit last Saturday.
Trailing 2-1 early in the third period the Rangers power play came thorugh for the second time in the game, with Ryan McDonagh netting his second goal of the season to pull the visitors even. McDonagh blasted a shot from straightaway through a Chris Kreider screen to beat Evgeni Nabokov at 4:59. Derek Stepan, who also assisted on Kreider's first period power play goal, and Mats Zuccarello, picked up the assists after an Islander too many men on the ice penalty moments before.
The Rangers dodged a bullet a few minutes later when Zuccarello was sent off for a boarding minor. However a sterling penalty kill by the Rangers kept the score tied at two, and the Rangers penalty kill finished the night a perfect 3-for-3 against the NHL's second-ranked power play.
Hagelin then set up Pouliot off the rush, and Pouliot beat Nabokov from the high slot at 13:46 to put the Rangers back in the lead, 3-2. It was the second time in three games Pouliot was involved in making a clutch play on the Rangers game-winning goal. Last Saturday against the Red Wings his extra-effort diving poke pass set up Derick Brassard's overtime winner.
An unfortunate bounce late in the second period landed the Rangers in a 2-1 hole heading into the second intermission despite a committed and passionate effort by the visitors. With under a minute to play in the second, Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic whipped a quick left-wing shot towards the Rangers net that skipped off the tip of Talbot's glove and then banged off Dan Girardi's chest before rolling over the goal line with 40.5 seconds left, snapping a one-all tie.
It was a terribly deflating goal, especially after the Rangers had controlled much of the middle 20 minutes, firing 15 shots at Nabokov without adding to the one they scored on just four shots in the opening period. The Islanders actually scored twice in that second period---on seven shots---as Cal Clutterbuck also zipped a right wing shot over Talbot's glove off a 2-on-1 rush at 3:40 for his first goal as an Islander.
The Rangers had opened the scoring 12:30 into the first on Kreider's first goal of the season. Camped in front of Nabokov during the Rangers first power play of the game, Kreider deflected a Brad Richards point shot on net, and then collected his own rebound and slid the disc into the back of the cage to give the Rangers a 1-0 advantage. It was the first career power play goal for Kreider, who scored only two even-strength goals in 23 games a year ago, and now has a goal and an assist in four games since being recalled from Hartford this season.
Kreider played a monster game, a hawk on the puck all night, using both his speed and size in a thoroughly powerful performance. Playing on a newly constructed line with Stepan and Zuccarello, Kreider and his linemates drew a pair of power plays for the Rangers with their terrific puck control and cycling in the offensive end. All three members of the line had excellent scoring chances over the course of the game, though it was Kreider who stood out the most with three shots on goal.
With Hagelin back in the lineup, head coach Alain Vigneault juggled all of his lines. Along with the new Stepan line, Richards shifted back to center with Hagelin and Pouliot as his wings; Brassard moved to the wing alongside center Brian Boyle and right wing J.T. Miller; and Dominic Moore started off with Derek Dorsett and Taylor Pyatt until an unspecified injury late in the first period knocked Moore out of the rest of the game. There was no update immediately available on Moore's injury status.
All of the Rangers lines played with jump and plenty of energy, effective and creative in the offensive end while being hard-nosed and aware in their defensive end of the ice. It was an effort much more reminiscent of that 3-2 victory over the Red Wings last Saturday then Monday's 2-0 home opener loss to the Canadiens.
After a day off on Wednesday, the Raners return to action when they host the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.