The Islanders scored three goals in the second period and Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves to shut out the Rangers at the Garden for the first time since Billy Smith did it on Dec. 17, 1975. The win, in a game Rangers coach Alain Vigneault preemptively labeled a "New York Classic," moved the Islanders into first place in the Eastern Conference, seven points ahead of the Rangers.
"It's a good win," Frans Nielsen said. "We knew they were going to come at us the first 10 minutes. We were lucky a couple times there. They couldn't go like that all game, we knew that, we got more time and we worked our way in the game. We played perfect the last 40 minutes."
The Isles outshot the Rangers in the first period, but the blueshirts appeared to be the better team. Halak made several big stops to keep the Rangers off the board and even received a little help from the posts.
In the first period, the Rangers' Rick Nash and Derick Brassard incredibly managed to hit the same post on consecutive shots.
Period two swung the tide, as the Islanders busted out for 19 shots and scored three times. Anders Lee got the opening goal at 8:49 off a rebound. Nikolay Kulemin was in the right time as the puck bounced right to him and he put a shot past Henrik Lundqvist. Nielsen made it 3-0 scoring off a short-handed rush in the final minute of the period.
"I think we just had to be a little bit crisper at times coming out of our own end," John Tavares said of the Isles' change from the first period to the second. "A little bit sharper and execute better in our own end. We got some good saves from Jaro in the first and they came out with a lot of energy.
"We just wanted to play a good road game and we knew we had to be a little bit better with the puck. We were and eventually we just made them defend."
With both teams entering Tuesday's game at the Garden hot -- the Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division for most of the season and Rangers having won 13 of 14 -- their was a certain vibe that made the game feel more important. While most of New York's other professional teams have long been irrelevant, both New York hockey clubs were going strong.
The success of both teams added to an already established rivalry. However, while bragging rights are great, two points in the standings mean more.
"We're fighting for top of the division and the conference as well," Tavares said. "These are teams we're battling with in the standings and I think that's what's most important. You get an opportunity to play them and try to create some separation or gain some ground."