NEW YORK (AP)Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin scored 2:05 apart in the third period to help Semyon Varlamov and the New York Islanders beat the New York Rangers 2-0 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Varlamov made 30 saves for his third shutout this season – second against the Rangers – as the Islanders won their second consecutive game. Islanders coach Barry Trotz earned his 850th victory, passing Ken Hitchcock for third place on the NHL’s career list.
”If you look at his track record, everywhere he’s gone success has followed him,” Martin said of Trotz. ”He along with Lou (Lamoriello) and the rest of the coaching staff built a strong culture, make us play the right way and hold us accountable every single night. He’s a coach every guy in the room loves playing for.”
Igor Shesterkin stopped 28 shots, but the Rangers’ four-game point streak ended.
Cal Clutterbuck’s aggressive forecheck created a turnover in the third period and the Islanders capitalized. Adam Pelech fired a shot from the point and Cizikas stuffed home a loose puck at 11:15 to snap a scoreless tie.
”We’re keeping our game simple and we’re playing to our strengths,” Cizikas said. ”That’s creating chances and it’s turning into success for our line. The way we’re playing and the way we’re jelling right, it’s a good feeling and it’s something we can build off of and get better at each game.”
Just more than two minutes later, Martin buried a feed from Clutterbuck right in front. Mathew Barzal extended his point streak to six games with an assist on the play.
”These guys are no-nonsense players. They play a straight-line game,” Rangers coach David Quinn said of the Islanders’ fourth line. ”In a game that’s getting less physical, they bring an element of physicality to the game shift in and shift out. Those players are few and far between this day and age.”
Two of the best chances for the Rangers came early in the third. Star forward Artemi Panarin had a breakaway but Varlamov denied him with a glove save. Shortly afterward, Mika Zibanejad had a good opportunity but could not beat the Russian goaltender.
”It’s definitely a tough team to play against,” Zibanejad said. ”They are structured, do a lot of good things defensively. You just have to give them credit. We have to find a way to have an answer for that and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Varlamov became the first Islanders goalie to shut out the Rangers twice in one season. He made 24 saves for a 4-0 victory in the Jan. 14 opener between the crosstown rivals.
The teams don’t meet again until April 9, then play each other five times in 23 days.
Due to several changes to the NHL schedule because of COVID-19, the Rangers are in the middle of an eight-game homestand, their longest of the season. The stretch began Jan. 30 and is currently scheduled to conclude Feb. 16.
The Islanders will play the same opponent in consecutive games 19 times this season.
The Islanders have four players (Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock) with streaks of at least 200 games played.
Rangers: Host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.
Islanders: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
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