EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — It was a textbook ending for the New York Rangers in their Stadium Series victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday. But not necessarily the story they intended to tell.
“It wasn’t a script we wrote,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said after their 6-5 overtime victory in front of 79,690 fans at MetLife Stadium in the highest-scoring outdoor game in the league. NHL history. “It was crazy. It was unbelievable. A lot of praise for our guys after a first period that didn’t go our way.”
The Rangers took an early 1-0 lead, but then saw the Islanders score three goals in 3 minutes and 14 seconds, including goals by Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal 16 seconds apart. Just 1:03 into the second half, the Rangers trailed 4-1. Even when they mounted a play, the Islanders had a response and led 5-3 with five minutes left in regulation.
But at the final horn, the Rangers pulled away with an incredible comeback that was secured by Artemi Panarin’s unassisted goal just 10 seconds into overtime, marked with the net unmoored. The goal was confirmed as valid after reviewing the video.
“I don’t remember that goal because a wave of emotions came over me,” Panarin said through a translator. “But I’m 80 percent sure it was a goal.”
According to ESPN rules analyst Dave Jackson, if the defensive team dislodges the goal, whether intentionally or accidentally, and there is an imminent chance of scoring, as long as the puck passes between where the uprights should be, that counts. That was the case with Panarin.
“I’m confident the league and the referees made the right decision,” Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson said.
But other calls did not go down so well with the islanders. The Rangers reveled in the Islanders’ final penalty kill with three power-play goals, including two in the third period with Igor Shesterkin pulled out for an extra attacker. The Islanders’ death penalty is now effective only 70.7% of the time.
“There were a couple of (calls) that we didn’t necessarily agree on,” Islanders forward Brock Nelson said. “It felt like a late decision. Whatever it is, the referee makes a decision. You have to go out and do the job.”
The Rangers got the job done despite the deficit, something this group is known for this season. This was New York’s ninth third-period comeback victory this season. That’s already the second-most in franchise history, trailing only the 11 comebacks in 2010-11.
“We look at ourselves and see what we have to do,” said Mika Zibanejad, who scored a goal in the third period, as did Chris Kreider. “In situations where we’re down, we know what we have to do and we’ve been pretty good at getting back on track and getting big goals, creating kind of momentum to get the game back in our direction.”
Laviolette praised his best players for fueling the rally, saying, “I thought our power players at the end of the game, in the most important circumstances, really delivered.”
The victory was the Rangers’ seventh in a row, putting them six points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes for the Metropolitan Division lead. It was an important divisional game for the Rangers against their traditional rivals, but it also allowed them to fondly reminisce about the weekend’s events at MetLife Stadium, which included everything from a family skate on Friday to the team arriving in jerseys. NYFD and NYPD before. Sunday’s game.
“You still get two points for a win. But at the same time, you want to enjoy this weekend. And there’s no better way to end this than with a win like that,” Zibanejad said.