Less than two minutes after the Islanders had tied the score at three-all in the third period Tuesday night, captain Anders Lee buried a backhander off a feed from Alexander Romanov for the go-ahead tally that ultimately handed the Rangers a 4-3 loss at the Garden.
What allowed that play to unfold, however, was Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom tripping Kaapo Kakko — a play that wasn’t whistled.
“Did you guys not see it?” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said after the loss, which dropped his club to 6-5-3 on the season. “So I’m not gonna say nothing about it. But you’ve seen the last two goals, what the situations were.”
Gallant didn’t state any frustration over the lack of a penalty, but the 59-year-old coach rarely criticizes officiating. Still, it was clearly a factor in the Islanders’ ability to post three goals in the third period and rally from a 3-1 deficit to win their second game in a row and their seventh in their last eight.
As for the Islanders’ tying goal on the power play from Brock Nelson, it’s unclear what situation Gallant is referring to. The Islanders earned the man-advantage after Filip Chytil was called for hooking Lee at 11:42 of the final period.
Vitali Kravtsov was back in the Rangers’ lineup Tuesday night, slotting into the right-wing spot of the third line next to Chytil and Chris Kreider. Kravtsov had missed the previous four contests with an upper-body injury he sustained during a collision into the boards with Dallas defenseman Jani Hakanpaa, and also missed five of the nine games before that with other undisclosed upper-body ailments.
The 22-year-old Russian recorded his first shot on goal of the season, in addition to blocking a shot and posting one hit.
“He had great jump in practice the other day and the last couple days,” Gallant said of Kravtsov. “Feels real good. Hopefully things will happen for him and for us. I’m sure he’s pretty frustrated, a month into the season he’s played about 25 minutes probably in the four games he played.”
Ryan Reaves was a healthy scratch for the third time this season, while Sammy Blais, Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Carpenter made up the fourth line.
Ryan Lindgren missed a second straight game with an upper-body injury, while Julien Gauthier was sidelined with an upper-body injury as well. Both are skating individually and close to returning, Gallant said, but the two are still considered day-to-day.