Hot Isles con­tinue their run to play­off con­tention with vic­tory vs. Rangers

New York Post - - CLASSIFIEDS - By BRETT CYRGALIS bcyr­galis@ny­post.com

The Is­lan­ders are not the same team they were a month ago, not by a long shot. And the Rangers just got a look first­hand.

In a game that was a re­vival of this newly in­fre­quent ha­tred, one that woke up what has been a rather bleak build­ing, the Is­lan­ders showed their nec­es­sary des­per­a­tion and beat the Rangers 4-2 Thurs­day night at a loud and sold-out Bar­clays Cen­ter.

The dark out­look that ex­isted for the Is­lan­ders (26-20-10) af­ter oc­cu­py­ing the cellar of the stand­ings for the first three months of the sea­son has lifted with the lev­ity and re­spect in­terim head coach Doug Weight has brought since tak­ing over for the fired Jack Ca­puano on Jan. 17.

“This can’t be it for us. It has to be an April-May men­tal­ity,” Weight said, his team now 9-3-2 since he took over and one point out of the se­cond wild-card spot be­hind the Maple Leafs. “The re­sponse was awe­some.”

De­spite their su­pe­ri­or­ity in the stand­ings — as well as in pedi­gree and ex­pec­ta­tions — the Rangers (37-19-1) con­tinue to be their punch­ing bag, as the Brook­lyn Boys have taken all four games played here on At­lantic Av­enue since mov­ing in last sea­son. That in­cludes the pre­vi­ous con­test Dec. 6, as well as five of the pre­vi­ous six be­tween th­ese two newly ur­ban ri­vals.

“If you don’t have a deep ef­fort against the New York Rangers, you’re not go­ing to beat them,” Weight said. “They’re too good. They’re deep, well-coached, good goalie. They’re a solid team. If you can’t roll lines out, you can’t match against ev­ery line. You have to have guys play­ing out of their com­fort zone a lit­tle bit.

“And hope­fully that proves to them that we’re a pretty damn good team.”

That hasn’t been said a lot about the Is­lan­ders this sea­son, but it has been seen a lot since Weight took over. They over­matched the Rangers with in­ten­sity, and the Is­lan­ders’ emo­tion still didn’t boil over, not even when Weight him­self was los­ing his mind be­hind the bench af­ter los­ing a chal­lenge on what he thought was a goalie in­ter­fer­ence call on Rick Nash.

In­stead, it was a Jimmy Ve­sey power-play goal that cut the Is­lan­ders’ lead to 3-2 just 3:46 into the third pe­riod. Asked how he con­trolled his emo­tions Weight could only smile.

“I didn’t,” he said. “But I get back to Earth quick. … It’s not a blackand-white rule, so we can agree to dis­agree and then move on. You have to win a game.

“I’ve been mar­ried 20 years. I’m wrong, you’re right.”

The Rangers had started that pe­riod with 3:52 of man-ad­van­tage time, but Is­lan­ders cap­tain John Tavares set up a sweet short­handed goal by Niko­lay Kulemin to give his team a 3-1 edge just 3:03 into the pe­riod. It proved to be a big one, as goalie Thomas Greiss man­aged to keep the Rangers at bay over the fi­nal few mo­ments and An­drew Ladd got his se­cond of the game and his 14th of the sea­son into the empty net to make it 4-2.

“We’re play­ing mean­ing­ful hockey,” said Ladd, who had beat Hen­rik Lundqvist (19 saves) at 6:24 of the se­cond pe­riod to give his team a 2-1 lead go­ing into the third, off­set­ting ear­lier goals from Nick Holden and Anders Lee. “We’ve put our­selves back in a po­si­tion where the games mean as much as they do. As play­ers, th­ese games are fun to play in.”

So it goes in the East­ern Con­fer­ence, where things can change so quickly — and the prime ex­am­ple of that re­sides in Brook­lyn.

“You see how tight the East is, and it’s amaz­ing how much can change in two, three days,” Tavares said. “It’s com­ing to a point now where we made all th­ese games mean­ing­ful. As they go, they just get more and more im­por­tant.”

Getty Images; Paul J. Bereswill

OWNER’S MAN­UAL: An­drew Ladd, cel­e­brat­ing his se­cond-pe­riod goal Thurs­day against Hen­rik Lundqvist, and the Is­lan­ders took down Rick Nash (in­set) and the Rangers for a 4-2 win, as the Blueshirts re­mained win­less in four games at Bar­clays Cen­ter.

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