HOW IT HAPPENED
Following their slow start Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, it was the Islanders jumping out to a 3-0 first-period lead this time en route to a 5-3 win over the New York Rangers at UBS Arena on Saturday night. JG Pageau, Brock Nelson, and Bo Horvat all had first-period goals against Bluehirts starter Jonathan Quick. Cal Clutterbuck added a goal in the second period to extend the lead to 4-0 after two periods.
“Every line was going tonight, everybody contributed,” Horvat said after the game. “It just seemed like everybody knew where everybody was going to be and that's a lot to do with our routes and practice, but also talking and knowing where everybody's going to be and communicating with your teammates.”
The Rangers pulled to within one goal with 50 seconds left, but Anders Lee scored an empty netter to seal the win. Semyon Varlamov played the whole game and made 23 of 26 saves in the win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The chemistry between Anders Lee and JG Pageau appears to be real.
While it was somewhat assumed the Islanders captain would be on a line with Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat to start the season after being part of the team's top line last season, Lane Lambert has had Simon Holmstrom in that spot so far this pre-season, and Lee playing on the third-line with Pageau.
"I have had them together, and I liked the responsibility of both guys," Lambert said Tuesday night as reported by The Hockey News. "So, we'll see as we go forward here, where that goes. But they're a couple of good veteran players that play the game the right way."
Lee set up a darting Pageau beautifully for the game's opening goal. We'll see if this pre-season experiment sticks when the season starts in two weeks.
WHAT WENT WRONG
It's more about what isn't happening at all than what went wrong on Saturday night. Kyle Palmieri still hasn't skated with the team during training camp with an undisclosed injury.
“The good news is, right now, is he’s skating every day [on his own] and he’s progressing,” Lambert said on Saturday in Newsday. “His conditioning is great. It’s no different than any other time we have any injury. It’s next man up. This has given us a good opportunity to see a couple of guys in that type of role. At the same time, he’s a big piece to our team, and we look forward to getting him back.”
There seems to be optimism that he'll be ready for Opening Night but looks less and less likely with every practice he misses. There has been a lot of anticipation to see Palmieri with Pierre Engvall and Brock Nelson after how that line finished last season; the Islanders hope they get a chance to reunite the line in time for the regular-season opener.
STATS OF THE GAME
The two pre-season games this week amongst the cross-town rivals will be the last time the two teams see each other in 2023. The Islanders and Rangers aren't scheduled to meet each other again until their Stadium Series matchup in February outdoors at MetLife Stadium in what will be an Islanders home game.
SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME
The National Football League and pop culture world is waiting to watch Taylor Swift watch Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs battle the New York Jets on Sunday Night. With that as a backdrop, the Islanders and their mascots had some fun, holding an empty seat for Swift and an "87" Islanders jersey, just in case he wanted to take in a hockey game during her stay in the tri-state area. Both Spary and Nyisles went the extra mile, wearing outfits resembling the all-denim look that Kelce wore last Sunday for the team's game against the Bears.
The pre-season rolls on Monday night when the Islanders take on the high-powered New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center in Newark.
Face-off is set at 7:00 p.m.