The sold-out crowd did see a good game, and the pocket of Islander fans that made the trip to Manhattan left happy, but the true flair of Islanders versus Rangers wasn’t all there. Maybe the fisticuffs at the end were a primer for what is to come when the two teams do battle again on Long Island in two weeks.
The Nassau Coliseum is usually the livelier of the two venues and brings out the spirit of the Islanders, Rangers rivalry.
Wisely, the Islanders entered Tuesday’s game as even keeled as possible. The players and coaching staff understood what the rivalry means and the significance of what the two points meant in the standings, but they did not try to make the game out to be bigger than what it was.
And after the game, their celebration reflected that.
“When I was younger, my first couple of years, sometimes you get yourself overhyped for a game like this,” Matt Martin said. “That’s for the fans and the media to talk about. For us it’s just about playing the same way. You can’t look at it and make the game bigger than it is. It’s pretty simple and we play a simple, fast game. You keep playing that way and we’ll be successful.”
The Two points the Islanders picked up helped push them to the top of the Eastern Conference and kept them ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are just one point behind them. The win also serves as a moral booster in the mind of Islanders’ Head Coach Jack Capuano.
“To play a team that’s playing so well,” Capuano said. “Coming off the trip they came off, it gives the guys confidence that they can play against veteran teams and good hockey teams.”
The end of Tuesday’s games was a small taste of what the Islanders and Rangers rivalry can be. Over the years it has certainly had its’ share of nastiness and the way the game ended could be setting up for a much more entertaining game at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders will see the Rangers three more times at the Coliseum, including the January 29 game. Those games will certainly become more and more important as the season winds down and the standings become tighter.
“We’ve beaten them twice in their building now they’re going to be ready for us in our rink,” said Martin, who was part of the post game tussle. “I’m sure they’re not happy with the way the game went. Maybe [this game] sets the tone, but they’re always physical and always rough.
“I wouldn’t expect it to be any different.”