New York Rangers (-102) at New York Islanders (-108, 5.5 o/u)
The fifth and final meeting of the regular season between the New York Rangers (40-17-7, 87 pts) and New York Islanders (43-21-4, 90 pts) goes tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale (7:00 p.m. Eastern).
Both the Islanders and Rangers are having tremendous seasons to date, sitting first and second, respectively, in the Metropolitan Division.
The Rangers, in particular, have been on a tear of late, winning 12 of their last 17 games and going 7-1-2 in their last ten. The team bounced back from a 2-1 loss at Detroit with a 1-0 OT win over the Blackhawks on Sunday. Derick Brassard and Cam Talbot shared the glory, with Brassard netting the lone goal of the game and Talbot stopping all 29 shots he faced. (Unfortunately for the Rangers, starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist remains sidelined with a throat injury.)
Brassard’s winner came just 32 seconds into the extra frame. Mats Zuccarello showed good patience after entering the Hawks zone and found a streaking Brassard coming down the left wing late. Brassard let go a quick slapper that beat Chicago’s Corey Crawford stick side.
“There’s no way there I could score on the glove side, so I just tried to go short side and it worked,” said Brassard after the game. “It felt pretty good. I hadn’t scored in decades. I’m just happy we came here and won the game. We know they’re a power team in the West.”
While the Rangers are still three points back of the Isles for top spot in the division, they also have four games in hand. And they can take a big step toward claiming the division lead tonight against a tired Islanders team that played in Toronto last night.
The Isles managed to pick up two points in OT last night against the languishing Leafs (4-3), but needed a three-goal third period just to force overtime.
The Islanders’ captain and leading scorer, John Tavares, emerged the hero, potting the OT winner with just under 30 seconds to go. Tavares made a great individual effort, streaking down his off wing, side stepping a Leafs forward, then cutting to the middle as the defenders got themselves too deep and waiting for goalie Jonathan Bernier to go down before sliding the puck five-hole.
The win was huge for the Islanders, who had lost three of four heading into Sunday.
The team will receive a boost tonight as first line winger Kyle Okposo returns to the lineup. Okposo had 44 points in 46 games before going down in mid-January.
Looking at the trends, the Islanders have won three of the four games in the series this season, but the Rangers came on top last game – despite being +128 road dogs – in a wild 6-5 (metaphorical) shootout.
The Rangers are -102 in the moneyline for tonight’s game, while the Islanders are -108.
(Photo credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)