The Rangers rallied with a big third period to dethrone the Islanders

The Rangers had a tunnel vision approaching the offseason and it paid off.

Motivated by the prospect of salvaging their season, as well as winning at least the last three games they are scheduled to play against the Islanders, the Rangers salvaged their best for their last regular season meeting with their cross-state opponents. Both goals came in a 5-3 win Thursday night at Madison Square Garden that sent the Rangers out of action for a massive four days as they won eight of their last nine matches.

“Ten games ago, the season wasn’t great,” said Barclay Goudreau, who scored the first of three Rangers goals in the third period and assisted on Vincent Troshek’s empty goal. “I won eight out of nine and we put ourselves in a good position. We’re right in the mix. A 10-game stretch can do a lot. We know how quickly things can go the other way. Obviously, it’s a confidence boost Big on this tour. I think we’re playing good hockey, we just want to keep up.”

Capo Kaku, right, celebrates his game-winning goal.
Getty Images

If the NHL has to limit hockey fans to just three regular season games featuring one of the best rivalries in the league, the Rangers and the Islanders at least made their last meeting memorable.

Not only did Rangers player Igor Shesterkin and Islanders player Ilya Sorokin skate hard on goal, they scored as often and played as aggressively as a tiebreaker clash deserved. The result was tied three times. Sixteen penalty minutes conceded. And there was no shortage of action in one of the best New York battles in recent memory.

Capo Kaku scored the game-winning goal at 17:13 of the third period, when the Finnish winger buried a center feed from Kandri Miller. The goal may have won the Rangers the game — and kept them in the midst of the Metropolitan standings, tied with the Penguins at 43 points — but it was the only way Kaku felt he could make up for his costly turnover earlier in the game. .

“I was thinking of something like that,” said Kakko. “After their second goal, obviously it was my fault. I think it happens [to] Everyone. This is how you should think next. It was nice to score a goal like that at the end, especially after a play like that.”

Rangers and Islanders go into the scrap during the third period.
Rangers and Islanders go into the scrap during the third period.
Noah K. Murray, New York Post

The score was tied at 1-1 in the second half when Kaku was spinning around the area, as he does with the puck. After he fumbled at the blue line, Matthew Barzal broke away and the Islanders stared a bad back-up over Shesterkin to give his team the lead.

Visually dazed, Kaku said some of his teammates had some encouraging words for the 21-year-old winger, which was also noted by coach Gerard Gallant.

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“That’s perfect, because it comes from driving,” Gallant said. “You make mistakes. Obviously an important game like it was tonight and giving that goal is difficult for a young player. But I saw [Chris] Creeder and Godrow are there talking to him. You will make mistakes, but it’s good that it ended the right way.”

The Rangers celebrate during their victory over the Islanders.
The Rangers celebrate during their victory over the Islanders.
Noah K. Murray, New York Post

This turn of events saw Gallant briefly promote Julien Gautier alongside Alexis Lafrenière and Philippe Chetel after Gautier made it 2-2 almost three minutes after Barzal’s goal. Gauthier, who was skating with some extra oomph in his first game in the lineup after sitting out the previous three, also put the shot home that Goudreau deflected to make it 3-3 early in the third period.

In the 10 games leading up to the holiday break, the Rangers had to finish strong if they were to keep up in such a competitive division. And their eight wins are a Christmas and Hanukkah gift.

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