So that's what we've been missing.
For years the Islanders and Rangers have occupied different ends of the NHL standings. While the Rangers contended for the playoffs and the Stanley Cup, the Islanders were busy contending for the first-overall pick in the draft. They played within minutes of each other and played within the same division, but played on totally different levels of hockey. Their rivalry seemed more of a formality than a living, breathing thing.
But now the two teams are both contending. They both are fighting for the East's final playoff spot. They are both flawed teams finding ways to win despite their shortcomings and expectations. And with the heat of the race at boiling temperatures, they finally met in Nassau Coliseum on Saturday as true rivals. The result was one of the most intense, physical and thrilling hockey games in recent memory. If the Hockey Gods are good, they will give us a long New York playoff series soon.
To learn more about the night's action (hint: the West is still a complete, utter mess), read on!
All The NHL Scores
Get caught up on Saturday's NHL scores with recaps from our network of SB Nation team blogs. Here's a quick glance at the full night of action:
Rangers 1, Islanders 0 (OT)
Stars 2, Sharks 1
Prior to last night's games, we presented five burning questions regarding the night's action. Here are your cool, soothing answers.
1. Will the Dallas Stars take over the eighth seed tonight? Wait, really?
Really! The Stars held on for a 2-1 win over San Jose and sit in eighth place for the time being. Dallas is now 5-1-0 since the trade deadline and are making this spectacular run without the stars (pardon the pun) with whom they began the season. It doesn't get any easier though. Columbus is still charging and the Red Wings are hanging onto their position in the standings. Dallas has to keep up this ridiculous pace if they want any chance at sniffing the playoffs.
2. Which of the three big rivalry games tonight will be the nastiest?
I don't know about nastiest, but the Islanders-Rangers match-up lived up to the hype in a big way. Nassau Arena was on the verge of collapsing from the intensity of this game, both in the stands and on the ice. Henrik Lundqvist came up huge with 29 saves for his first shutout of the season in an atmosphere that Derick Brassard called "crazy." The Isles and Blueshirts are fighting for their playoff lives and they both played like it. It was a thrilling display of hockey.
As we pointed out yesterday morning, the Hurricanes had nothing to play for. At all. They're almost guaranteed a top-five pick in June. And yet they came out and slapped the Bruins with a 4-2 win. Justin Peters got redemption for his poor outing in Boston on Monday with 28 saves, none bigger than this one on Jaromir Jagr:
4. Who leads the Rocket Richard race after Stamkos and Ovechkin battle in D.C.?
Just as he did the last time these two met, Alex Ovechkin stole the show from Steven Stamkos. Ovechkin's goal in the first period was his 27th and passed Stamkos for the league lead. Stamkos didn't score at all on Saturday. At this point, it's Ovechkin's to lose. The Capitals are surging and Ovechkin is on the best tear of his career right now. There's no reason why he can't pull away from Stamkos.
5. Can Minnesota get out of their tailspin?
They tried. They really did. They completely outplayed the Blue Jackets for stretches on Saturday and threw 41 shots on net. But Sergei Bobrovsky is just in another world right now. He gave up the lead in the third, but he buckled down in overtime and the shootout to earn the win. The Vezina Trophy very well could belong to Bob this season.
What moment from Thursday night's games will be making headlines in the coming days?
Was Evgeni Malkin's reported nagging injury something Penguins fans should worry about?
Stat of the Night
In his first six NHL games, Stars rookie Alex Chiasson has matched Milan Lucic and Brad Richards for goals this season— Arpon Basu (@ArponBasu) April 13, 2013
Post to Post
- The Capitals earned an ugly win.
- Yale defeated Quinnipac to win the NCAA title.
- The Wild lost, so here's a series of Mad Libs about losing from Wild fans.
- Finally, proof that visors save lives.
What's left of Nate Thompson's visor. Thank god he was wearing one. pic.twitter.com/J3pisVgSWy— Brian Breseman (@BBreseman) April 12, 2013