UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Rick Nash scored a deflected goal to break a tie 2:50 into the third period, and the New York Rangers beat the New York Islanders in their last regular-season visit to Nassau Coliseum 2-1 on Tuesday night.
After dropping the first three matchups to the Islanders — including two at home — the Rangers have won two straight on Long Island. The previous meeting was a 6-5 Rangers victory in which they erased a pair of two-goal deficits after falling behind 1-0 just 11 seconds in.
Kevin Hayes scored the tying goal in the second period this time, and Cam Talbot made 29 saves to improve to 11-2-3 since No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist went out with a neck injury. Nash’s team-leading 39th goal was a shot from the right point that caromed in off Islanders forward Ryan Strome.
The Rangers (41-17-7) are 2-0-1 in their past three games despite scoring only four goals. They trail the Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders by one point, but have four games in hand.
Anders Lee gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the first period. Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves in his return to the net after Michal Neuvirth started the previous two. The Islanders (43-22-4) are 2-2-2 in their past six.
The Islanders got good news with the return of top-line forward Kyle Okposo, who missed 22 games because of eye surgery, but they were without defenseman Nick Leddy for the first time this season.
Just as in previous matchups, the Islanders again got the jump on the Rangers early, despite playing an overtime game at Toronto on Monday night.
It paid off at 9:35 when hard work around the crease and behind the net by Lee produced his 23rd goal. Lee put pressure on Talbot in the crease, followed the puck behind the net and outworked defenseman Dan Boyle for it. Lee then jammed the puck at the left post and pushed it between Talbot’s pads to make it 1-0.
The Islanders held a 9-1 shots advantage at the time of the goal and finished the first period with a 13-7 edge.
Both teams had one failed power play in the first. The Rangers got theirs when Casey Cizikas dumped Jesper Fast with his stick while they were waiting for the center-ice faceoff after Lee’s goal.
The Rangers gradually caught up on the shot board and then got even on the scoreboard on Hayes’ fine individual effort that made it 1-1 with 8:25 left in the second.
Mats Zuccarello sent a crisp lead pass to Hayes, who took the puck in stride and drove to the net. He managed to shake off harassment from defenseman Thomas Hickey, made a spin move to get free and then swept a shot past Halak, who sprawled out on his stomach in a desperate attempt to deny Hayes’ 13th goal of the season.
The Islanders had another surge in the second half of the second, but couldn’t solve Talbot. Josh Bailey had the best chance when he came in on a breakaway with 1:23 left in the frame, but his backhander was smothered by Talbot to keep it tied.
NOTES: The Rangers are 54-63-8-2 at Nassau Coliseum. … Leddy sat out because of an injury sustained during a 4-3 overtime win at Toronto on Monday. Leddy had played in 320 consecutive games, including 68 since joining the Islanders before this season. Brian Strait replaced him. … Michael Grabner was scratched in favor of Okposo. LW Kael Mouillierat was returned to Bridgeport (AHL). … Rangers C James Sheppard was scratched and replaced by LW Tanner Glass.
This article was written by Ira Podell from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.