Islanders rely on youth, come off bye with win
Barzal, Beauvillier combine for 8 points
NEW YORK – Neither the New York Islanders nor New York Rangers had won a game in regulation since before Christmas entering Saturday’s game at Madison Square Garden. One of them played like they might not do so until Groundhog Day.
Behind big games from Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier – 20-year-olds born within two weeks of one another in 1997 – the Islanders blew out the Rangers, 7-2, to further tighten the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers (22-16-5) have 49 points. The Islanders (22-18-4) have 48 points.
Both teams had been off since last Sunday for their mid-season breaks. One looked fresher than the other.
“It’s kind of tough coming off a break like that,” the Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck said. “You never know how you’re going to feel, how you’re going to react. We just wanted to come out and keep it simple, play hard.”
That they did, racing to a 5-1 lead early in the second period, chasing starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and drawing boos from Rangers fans who watched the Islanders win for the 10th time in their last 12 visits to the Garden.
“I was surprised,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who was supposed to have the day off in advance of today’s game in Pittsburgh but instead had to relieve Pavelec. “Mostly, I’m just disappointed.”
Mostly, the Rangers lamented the many odd-man rushes they yielded, which helped Barzal finish with two goals and three assists, Beauvillier with two goals and one assist and Jordan Eberle with four assists.
According to the NHL, Barzal joined Bryan Trottier as the only Islanders with two five-point games in their rookie seasons.
“Not being smart – way too many odd-man looks,” Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said of what went wrong. “That’s kind of a byproduct. I think the main thing is we want a group in there that’s willing to do whatever it takes to win. Right now, we don’t have enough guys doing that.”
The Islanders arrived at the Garden banged up, and with a new man, winger Michael Dal Colle in the lineup, then they lost another key player when Casey Cizikas left with an upper-body injury. Coach Doug Weight gave an ominous early prognosis, saying Cizikas likely miss some time.
“We’re going to have to find a way,” Weight said.
Around the rinks
• Evgeni Malkin scored two goals and assisted on two more to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-1 home victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Malkin has scored five goals over the last three games.
• Brad Marchand scored the winning goal in the fourth round of a shootout, and the Boston Bruins continued their roll (now 9-03) with a 4-3 win over the host Montreal Canadiens.
• Sean Couturier remained red-hot by scoring two goals, including the tiebreaking tally late in the second period, as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the reeling New Jersey Devils 5-3 in Newark.
• Matt Dumba scored two goals while Mikael Granlund added a goal and an assist as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 4-1, in St. Paul, Minn.