A little over a year ago, the Islanders kept hitting the Rangers in preparation for the playoffs.
And now the roles are reversed.
Rangers were the team with something to play on Thursday night at the UBS Arena, and they looked the part in a convincing 6-3 win over the Isles to officially win home ice in the first round of the postseason. The win also kept the Rangers’ tie with the Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
It was a drastic turnaround from the Rangers’ shutout loss to the Islanders earlier in the month, reminiscent of how this Battle for New York has played out in the Islands’ favor over the past few seasons. But the Rangers are about to change the narrative.
After a four-assist performance from Artemi Panarin and a hat-trick from Andrew Copp in the first half, the Blueshirts controlled the game from start to finish.
The Islanders, who haven’t had a single break all season, announced before the puck drop that they would lose two more forwards. Anthony Beauvillier was sidelined with an upper-body injury while Jean-Gabriel Pageau — as well as associate coach Lane Lambert and assistant coach Jim Hiller — entered COVID-19 protocol.
As a result, Otto Koivula received an emergency skating recall in his sixth NHL game of the season.
Still, the win for Rangers is particularly notable given that it came against Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who has been a problem for them for the last two seasons. Before Thursday’s contest, Varlamov had a .95 goal average, a staggering .963 save percentage and five shutouts in a 505-45 against Rangers.
Varlamov eventually gave up six goals on 23 shots, leading to the eliminated Islanders’ third straight loss.
Rangers led the Islanders in the first period, taking a 3-0 lead thanks to a natural hat-trick from Copp. Panarin earned an assist on all three but the star winger set up the first two with brilliant feeds just over four minutes apart.
With 74 assists this season, Panarin broke the Rangers record previously held by Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky for assists by a forward in a single season.
Ryan Strome then threaded a pass over the top of the crease for Copp to hit home late in the period. Copp became the first Rangers skater to hit a natural hat trick in the first period since Don Raleigh on February 25, 1948, and only the third player in franchise history.
The Islanders ended the Rangers’ shutout streak 200-43, dating back to their 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes on April 12 when Brock Nelson scored his first of two goals on the night 37 seconds in midfield.
However, Chris Kreider’s 51st goal of the season on the power play and Ryan Strome’s late second-half strike ensured Rangers took a comfortable lead. Even with Nelson’s second of the game on the power play and Josh Bailey’s score to cap Ryan Reaves’ fourth of the season at 13-22, Rangers finished strong.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/21/andrew-copps-hat-trick-propels-rangers-past-rival-islanders/ Andrew Copp’s hat-trick propels Rangers past rival Islanders