NEW YORK (AP) — Kyle Palmieri scored the tiebreaking goal with less than three minutes left in the third period and Ilya Sorokin made 29 saves as the New York Islanders beat the rival Rangers 2-1 Thursday night.
Anders Lee also scored for the Islanders, who are 4-0-1 in their last five games.
“We are playing more to our identity,″ Lee said. ”That was a full-team effort tonight, a great team win.”
Chris Kreider scored his 40th goal — and league-best 21st on the power play — and Igor Shesterkin had 26 saves for the Rangers, who had won two straight.
Palmieri got his 11th goal of the season with 2:44 left with assists to defensemen Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. Palmieri has points in six straight games and in nine of his last 10.
“I ended up at the net front and Pully made a great play,” said Palmieri, who has four goals in his last three games. ”We’re rolling in the right direction.”
Sorokin was spectacular from the start as the Islanders continued their recent mastery against their long-time rivals at Madison Square Garden. The Islanders are 8-3-0 in their last 11 visits to Rangers’ home ice, winning three of four last season. Both goaltenders were outstanding from the start in a tense game that felt like a playoff clash. Shesterkin made 26 saves, losing in regulation for only the fourth time in his last 21 starts.
“That was unbelievable goaltending on both sides in a great atmosphere,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. ”It was a two teams nose-to-nose. I’m going to say it was the most fun game of the year.”
The matchup was the first at the Garden between the teams this season. This game was originally scheduled for Nov. 28 but was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Islanders.
The Rangers won the previous matchup this season, 4-1 at UBS Arena on Nov. 24 when the Islanders were missing seven regulars due to COVID-19 and three more players with injuries.
“From start to finish I thought we played great hockey game. It’s disappointing to lose 2-1,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. “We know the Islanders are a good, talented hockey team. I thought tonight’s game was a coin toss.”
After a frenetic first period — which featured numerous end-to-end rushes and stellar goaltending at both ends — Lee finally broke through 49 seconds into the second on the power play.
Lee extended his goal-scoring streak to six games – during which he has nine goals – with his 23rd of the season. Assists went to Mathew Barzal and Noah Dobson. Michael Grabner — in 2011 — is the only other Islanders player to score in six straight games in the last 26 years. With the 207th goal of his career, Lee passed John Tonelli for 11th place on the franchise list. Lee also wears No. 27, which was retired for Tonelli two years ago.
“It’s just getting open and the boys finding my stick,″ Lee said of his recent goal-scoring prowess.
Shesterkin made seven stops in the first while his Sorokin had 12, including a spectacular acrobatic stick denial of Artemi Panarin early in the period.
The play evolved as Frank Vatrano – acquired by the Rangers from Florida on Wednesday – slid the puck to Panarin in the left circle from which Panarin whipped the puck towards a practically empty net. However, Sorokin managed to block the shot with the lower shaft of his stick while floundering on his back.
“That was one of the best saves I’ve seen in a while and I’ve been around a long time,″ added Trotz, who has been coaching in the NHL since 1998-99. “Nothing surprises me with him.”
Sorokin continued his sterling night in the second, stopping Kreider on breakaway midway through the period. Shesterkin had his share of superb stops, prompting chants of “I-gor, I-gor” from the sellout Garden crowd of 18,006.
“That was so fun to be part of and watch those two go at it,” Barzal said of the goaltending duel.
The Rangers had a power-play chance when Scott Mayfield was called for interference and Kreider finally took advantage by rifling it past Sorokin with 6:22 left in the period. 13:38. Alexis Lafreniere and Jacob Trouba assisted on the goal.
Kreider became the 25th player in franchise history to reach the 40-goal plateau. Since 1996-97 only five Rangers have scored 40, the most recent being Kreider’s linemate Mika Zibanjead with 41 goals two seasons ago. Kreider also is the first Rangers player since Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06 to score 20 or more power-play goals in a season.
The Rangers this weekend will visit two teams above them in the Eastern Conference, Tampa Bay and Carolina. Trouba was encouraged by his team’s effort against the Islanders, who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
“We’ll learn about ourselves this weekend for sure,” Trouba said “I will take that effort tonight. There’s a lot we can take from this game.”
The Rangers fell to 20-6-3 at home, including 7-2-1 in the last 10. They play 12 of their remaining 21 games at home with all but one of those 21 contests against Eastern Conference opponents. April 19 at home against Winnipeg is the exception.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY HISTORY
Thursday’s game was the fourth St. Patrick’s Day contest between the long-time rivals. The Islanders won twice at Nassau Coliseum, 5-2 in 1979 and 6-3 in 1990. Brian Leetch scored the only goal against Garth Snow in a 2003 matchup at Madison Square Garden as Mike Dunham recorded the shutout for the Rangers.
NOTES: The teams meet again April 1 at Madison Square Garden and April 21 at UBS Arena. … The Rangers scratched D Libor Hajek and F Julien Gauthier and continued to be without injured F Kaapo Kakko, who hasn’t played since Jan. 21. … The Islanders scratched F Kieffer Bellows, F Ross Johnston and D Sebastian Aho.
Rangers: At Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
Islanders: Host Dallas on Saturday.