For much of the past half-decade, the New York Islanders have had the edge over the New York Rangers. From 2015-2018, the Islanders dominated the head-to-head meetings, but that changed the past couple of seasons. The teams split their four matchups in 2018-19, and the Rangers won three of the four games last year. While all but one of the games were competitive, these teams will be seeing a lot of each other this season. They also begin the season with a back-to-back on Jan. 14 and 16, as well as six more meetings later in the season.
Jan. 13, 2020: Panarin’s 5-Point Game
The first meeting between these two teams was the least competitive of the four. Ironically, it only took the Islanders 18 seconds to score the game’s opening goal from Jordan Eberle, but it was all Rangers from there on out. Both Matt Martin and Brendan Smith were given game misconducts after starting a fight after Ross Johnston and former Islander Micheal Haley dropped the gloves at 2:18 of the first period.
The Rangers scored the next six goals as Jesper Fast tied the game at one, and then the Islanders gave up goals to Chris Kreider, Adam Fox, a pair from Artemi Panarin, and one from Jacob Trouba. Panarin finished the game with five points in his first appearance in the rivalry after the Islanders were interested in signing him in the offseason. Semyon Varlamov started the game for the Islanders but was pulled with roughly 10 minutes left in the third period after allowing six goals. Alexandar Georgiev stopped 32 of 34 shots in the victory.
January 16, 2020: Kreider’s Last-Minute Goal
While the Islanders had a game the following night and won 8-2 again the Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers had two days to prepare for the next meeting. That came in handy as the two teams played an extremely competitive 60 minutes of hockey. Both Varlamov and Georgiev were back in net as Greiss started against the Red Wings. The Islanders scored the opening goal again as Josh Bailey registered his tenth goal of the season with Johnston and Tom Kuhnhackl recording helpers.
Mika Zibanejad responded with the game-tying goal midway through the second period, and then both teams traded goals in the third. Anthony Beavuiller, who has scored nine career goals against the Rangers, had one of them come late in the third period.
The game’s turning point ended up being a cross-checking penalty against Derick Brassard, much to the Islanders coaching staff’s dismay, and less than 30 seconds into the man-advantage, it was Kreider scoring another big goal against the Islanders right in front of the net. The Rangers earned themselves points number 49 and 50 and prevented the Islanders from getting at least a point with a regulation victory.
Jan. 21: Islanders’ Power Play Steps Up
The Islanders once again played the Rangers in January and were finally able to get themselves a win. Despite the Islanders’ power play struggling for most of the regular season, they were on fire this night at Madison Square Garden. Anders Lee and Beauvillier scored first period goals to give them a 2-0 lead.
The Islanders built at one point a 4-0 lead later in the game as Thomas Greiss was terrific and Anders Lee and Brock Nelson both scored. However, the Rangers inched closer with a pair of third-period goals, but it was not enough as the Islanders took it 4-2 for their 29th win of the season.
Feb. 25, 2020: Zibanejad Overtime Winner
The most entertaining game of the season came in their final matchup of the season. There was a buzz in the atmosphere as Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has a history of scoring against the Rangers, was playing in his first game after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators. Pageau made an immediate impact as he got the Islanders on the board with a power-play goal off a crazy bounce from the boards to cut the Rangers lead in half at 2-1.
With the Islanders still trailing in the third period, Pageau was issued a two-minute instigator penalty, five minute major for fighting, and a ten misconduct after challenging Jacob Trouba to a fight after a hit he did not like. Pageau found himself in the penalty box for the rest of regulation and saw Brett Howden add an insurance goal to make it 3-1 Rangers.
However, it all changed soon after when the Islanders’ five-on-three expired. Eberle scored to bring the Islanders back within one. Then with the net empty, Nelson tied the game with 18 seconds left after a terrific redirection off a pass from Devon Toews. The Islanders were able to earn themselves a point. Still, Zibanejad gave the Rangers two with his overtime goal 28 seconds into the extra session after an Islanders turnover in the offensive zone.
It only seems fair for these two teams to meet back up again in the playoffs. With a shortened season and new divisions, these teams will see each other more than ever and are both potential teams that will make the postseason in 2020-21. It has been 27 years since these two teams have met in the playoffs, and it would undoubtedly be a series to watch with two very talented teams.