NEW YORK -- Sure, the Stadium Series provided a great experience for the New York Islanders. The chance to play in front of more than 50,000 fans at Yankee Stadium will be something they will always remember.
But they would have preferred the two points that comes with winning the game.
The Islanders dropped their fourth straight game as they fell to the New York Rangers, 2-1, in the second Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night in the Bronx. The Islanders led 1-0 before the Rangers finished the scoring for the night to put themselves 11 points ahead in the standings.
"As great as the experience it is, it's tough when you lose," said Islanders center John Tavares, who was held pointless. "Tough to really look at the big picture and the good experience. It was a big game for us and [we] played well, but at the end of the day we didn't get the points we needed."
While the Islanders entered Wednesday 14th in the Eastern Conference, they were just seven points out of the playoffs, which speaks more to the mediocrity of the East than it does the Islanders being a contender. Facing a Rangers team they were 2-1 against, including a 5-3 win on Jan. 21, the Islanders had a big opportunity on a grand stage to knock off their rivals and inch closer in the race.
The Islanders controlled the pace for most of the first two periods and finally garnered a lead when Brock Nelson beat Henrik Lundqvist with just 1:27 left in the second period. In the turning point of the game, though, the Islanders couldn't keep up that momentum. The Rangers tied the game up just 40 seconds later on a goal by Benoit Pouliot, and it seemed the Islanders were never able to recover.
"That was a tough one to give up," Tavares said. "We have to do a better job after our shift gaining momentum like that, especially how well we played that period to get that first goal. We got to be a lot harder on pucks and do a better job in front of our goaltender. That's what's been our Achilles heel at times this year, and obviously they gained some momentum off that."
In the third period, the Islanders tallied just six shots, failing to score on any of them, and the Rangers took the lead for good 4:36 into the period when Daniel Carcillo scored off a rebound on a four-on-two rush. The Islanders had some clean chances in the final minutes, but couldn't beat Lundqvist. They also went 0-for-4 on the power play, including striking out on botch chances in the first.
The Islanders and the Rangers will meet again Friday at Madison Square Garden, the fifth and final meeting between them this season, as games are starting to creep toward must-win territory for the Islanders. The Islanders had a shot to snatch four points from the Rangers in these three days, but now will have to settle for a split at best.
"It's disappointing because these were two points we needed," Islanders forward Matt Martin said. "It's tough because we're trying to catch these guys and we obviously dug ourselves a pretty big hole early in the year and we were playing decent hockey and now we dropped four in a row again.
"That game Friday became a whole lot more important because we have to end the streak."