The formula proved to be as simple as anyone could have expected. Two power play goals, two goals by your top line, three goals and five assists by your top five offensive players -- and of course the customary blend of good defense, superb penalty killing, and timely saves. That's all it took to dispatch the pesky Islanders tonight. The game was not really as close as the 4-2 final score would indicate due to one lucky goal for the Islanders that was put in by the Rangers' defense and one goal off a defensive breakdown that gave the Isles life just when the Rangers were ready to run them back out the LIE. But the way the Rangers' luck has run against their cross-county rivals this season, the Isles stayed close enough to come within a shanked shot at an open back door of tying the game in the third period.
In the end, it was the opposition's power play that let them down rather than the Rangers'. The Isles came out strong in the first few minutes, as is often the case for a team playing its second game in two nights, hoping to capitalize on early energy before their legs start to give out on them. The Isles got a power play in the opening minute, they got a two-man advantage in the middle of the first period on what appeared to be an incorrect call, and they got a fourth advantage later in the period that was definitely an incorrect call when Chris Simon was unpunished for a post-whistle skirmish with Colton Orr and Brendan Witt.
As bad as the officiating was, it actually helped the Rangers. A friend who works for the Islanders said after the period that Ranger fans should cheer the calls, because they took the wind out of the Islanders' sails -- the Isles should just, in his opinion, say "penalty declined, first down" when they get a power play. Ranger fans are used to saying that about their own power play, but tonight, the penalty killers came within a fluke goal of a perfect night and the power play scored the go-ahead and game-winning goals in the second period.
The scoresheet is a compendium of welcome sighs of relief as well -- Jaromir Jagr, a goal and an assist; Chris Drury, a goal and an assist; Martin Straka, two assists; Scott Gomez, one goal; and Brendan Shanahan, one assist. Not to sell anyone else short -- especially Brandon Dubinsky with a goal and an assist as second star of the game and Dan Girardi with an assist and four shots on goal in nine shot attempts -- but seeing such a complete list of top Ranger forwards in the scoring summary is a good sign. Nevertheless, the question remains -- Can they carry forward down the road, especially with Ottawa and Carolina next up? Can the power play and the top five forwards continue scoring without weakening the defense? If so, they can actually improve on their 10-3-1 November record heading into December on this kind of note.
Official word on Sean Avery as of this moment (word for word, I swear): "Successful surgery, out indefinitely." No word on Paul Mara, who appeared to injure his left arm or shoulder in a collision along the boards in the final minute of play.