Welcome to the rivalry.
Artemi Panarin shoved a lot of the Rangers’ issues to the side for one night, putting on a whirlwind of a performance as his club beat the Islanders, 6-2, on Monday night at the Garden.
In Panarin’s first season since spurning the Islanders more-lucrative offer this summer to sign with the Rangers, and in the first meeting between the clubs this year — and their first of three meetings over the next nine days — Panarin was a force unto himself.
While these rivals were getting reacquainted — needing almost three full periods before some bad blood really surfaced — Panarin collected two goals and three assists, giving him 22 points in the past nine games. Panarin now has four straight home games with three or more points, only the second player in franchise history to do that. Andy Bathgate was the other, in 1961.
The Rangers (22-19-4) had been dealing with the three-goalie situation which coach David Quinn had called “not ideal,” and Alexandar Georgiev got the start in this one following a loss with Henrik Lundqvist in nets in St. Louis on Saturday and Igor Shesterkin picking up two straight wins to start his NHL career last week. Georgiev had three successful starts against the Islanders (27-13-4) last season, going 2-1 against them to improve on his team’s 1-9-2 record against the Isles over the previous three years.
There wasn’t much time gone by in the third period to realize that the record was going to improve again, as Panarin tallied his first goal of the game on a terrific backhand finish on a breakaway just 49 seconds into the frame to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead. Just before the halfway mark of the third, Panarin was left alone in front and was able to bang one through the legs of goalie Seymon Varlamov to make it 5-1.
When Jacob Trouba got a power-play goal at 10:15, that made it 6-1 and chased Varlamov, replaced by Thomas Greiss. And the Islanders showed a little bit of pride when Brock Nelson got a power-play goal of his own at 12:48, to make it 6-2.
Then some groundwork was laid for the rematch Thursday night at the Coliseum. Tony DeAngelo got into a scrap with the towering Ross Johnston — this after Johnston had a staged fight with Micheal Haley in the first period, followed immediately by another fight between Brendan Smith and Matt Martin (that, by rule, had both players kicked out because play had not started again). Chris Kreider was also dragging Nelson around by his jersey, and the animosity was reignited, with the Islanders surely looking forward to a chance at redemption in their own building.
The game couldn’t have started any worse for the Rangers, as they scrambled off the opening draw and Jordan Eberle was able to sneak one around Georgiev just 18 seconds in to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
But the Rangers came right back, taking over the period from the five-minute mark onward. They tied it when Jesper Fast banged in a rebound from in front at 8:14 — with oft-maligned official Frederick L’Ecuyer missing a slash from Fast on Nick Leddy just moments before.
The Blueshirts kept coming when the second started, with Kreider getting his 15th of the season on a high tip of a Panarin shot at 5:06, giving his team a 2-1 lead. It was extended to 3-1 when defenseman Adam Fox got a sharp-angle shot to sneak by Varlamov at 11:11 of second, giving Panarin assists on each of the Rangers’ first three goals.
The Islanders did make a push late in the second — with a couple chances for old buddy Derick Brassard — but Georgiev was able to keep the puck out and allow the Rangers to take their two-goal lead into the third.