First there was the brief surge midway through the second period. Then there was the furious two-goal comeback to tie the score late in the third. But despite erasing leads twice to pull even, the Islanders couldn't match the Rangers and sniper Marian Gaborik.
With the Rangers trailing by a goal in the second, Gaborik rattled off three of his team's next four goals for his 12th career hat trick and second this season, as the Rangers beat the Islanders, 6-5, last night at Nassau Coliseum.
At several points throughout the game, the Islanders flirted with the possibility of recording two straights wins at the Coliseum - a feat they have not managed this season - but in the end, it was merely a tease.
"Every time we seized momentum, they came back and capitalized," said goaltender Rick DiPietro, who allowed six goals on 26 shots. "It was an up and down game, but a loss is a loss."
The Islanders have dropped 15 of their past 16 games and have put together consecutive wins only once this season, during a three-game streak from Oct. 16-21.
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Down 5-3 in the third period, the Islanders answered with goals from Michael Grabner and Blake Comeau to tie it with 5:50 left in regulation, but Gaborik's third goal sealed the deal a mere 25 seconds later after he won a battle in front of the net and banged home the rebound.
"We could've been tighter and quicker on the defensive zone coverage and we lost coverage in front of our goaltender," coach Jack Capuano said about Gaborik's game-winning goal.
The Islanders fell behind early in the first period with a passive display that lacked the intensity they usually muster when facing their rivals.
Although it didn't reflect on the scoresheet - they outshot the Rangers 10-9 - the Islanders spent the bulk of the first period in their own end and fell behind by a pair of goals as a result.
Zenon Konopka got his first goal late in the first period, then former Islanders goalie Martin Biron was pulled in the next period after Matt Moulson scored his team-leading ninth goal at 9:11 and Rob Schremp added another with his one-timer at 12:30 to make it 3-2 Islanders. After Biron was given the hook, the Rangers went on a run sparked by a fluky goal to tie the score at 3.
With Henrik Lundqvist replacing Biron in net, the Rangers scored the equalizer at 13:21 - awarded to Brandon Prust - after a shot caromed off DiPietro's stick and banked in after hitting Andrew MacDonald's right hand. It was that hand that sidelined MacDonald for six weeks until his return last night.
After the fortuitous bounce that pulled them even, the Rangers snapped a 3-3 tie later in the period as Gaborik's pass intended for Callahan deflected off an Islander in front of the net for a power-play goal at 16:24.
"There were a lot of swings and sloppy play by both sides," said John Tavares, who had two assists. "Both coaches probably aren't too happy with how things went."
With five days of rest following their last win - a 2-0 shutout over New Jersey that halted their winless streak at 14 games - the Islanders couldn't start a streak in the other direction.