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If the Rangers were going to get a reality check after handily defeating the lowly Devils four games in a row, leave it to the Islanders.
Because after playing a team that had been dismembered at the trade deadline and whose playoff hopes are nonexistent, the Blueshirts were humbled Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum with a 6-1 loss to an Islanders squad fighting for the top seed in the East.
Having taken two convincing wins over their New York rivals earlier in the season, the Rangers got to meet the postseason version of the Isles, whose victory pulled them even with the Capitals for first place in the division.
And with the Bruins defeating the Sabres on Tuesday, the gap between the Rangers and a playoff spot deepened.
While the Rangers’ climb to earning a postseason bid may have gotten even more daunting, the most concerning loss of the night was that of defenseman Jacob Trouba, who was leveled into the boards by Islanders’ heavyweight Matt Martin roughly halfway through the first period.
He was visibly rattled and struggled to get back on his skates. With the way Trouba’s head banged into the glass, it is likely he has a concussion.
Trouba, who did not return with what the team described as an upper-body injury, had been the Rangers’ main source of physicality as of late. Losing him for any amount of time, let alone the final stretch of the regular season, would be detrimental to the Rangers’ hopes of finishing strong.
After carrying a 3-1 lead into the third period, the Islanders blew the game open with three unanswered goals. Behind a three-point night from Josh Bailey, including two goals, the Islanders seemingly got back to their heavy style of play that had eluded them through the three losses in their previous five games.
The Islanders emerged with a 1-0 lead after a first period that had a playoff-level intensity to it. From the moment Trouba went to the locker room, the Rangers were on their heels.
Following a crazy sequence in which a loose puck got behind goaltender Igor Shesterkin and somehow didn’t go in, a few shifts later, Josh Bailey swept in a pass from J-G Pageau at 17:42 to give the Isles a 1-0 lead. Brock Nelson nearly doubled the score at the buzzer after undressing Ryan Lindgren, but hit the crossbar.
But Nelson made up for it just 1:38 into the second, redirecting a feed from Nick Leddy past Shesterkin. The Rangers struggled to stay out of the penalty box early and sent the Islanders on their third power play, which Anthony Beauvillier, on his way to a four-point night, capitalized on with a one-timer for the 3-0 score just over five minutes into the middle frame.
Brendan Smith, who was playing like the Rangers’ playoff hopes depended on it, ripped the shot that Kevin Rooney deflected in to cut the deficit to two goals later in the second.
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