The Rangers and Islanders were skating in opposite directions. The Rangers had won three straight; the Islanders were on a five-game skid. But that changed Thursday night.
Frans Nielsen and John Tavares beat Martin Biron in the shootout and Evgeni Nabokov (36 saves) stopped Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash to give the Islanders a 4-3 victory at Madison Square Garden. It was the Islanders' first shootout of the season and ended their eight-game losing streak at the Garden.
"We understand our style," said Tavares, who scored unassisted on a two-on-one for his eighth goal of the season, wristing a shot past Biron to tie the score at 2 at 6:45 of the second period and shifting the momentum after the Rangers took a 2-0 lead. "The way we responded tonight was much better than the last five games."
The Islanders, who fell behind after the Rangers dominated the first period, forged ahead 3-2 by scoring three times in the first 7:25 of the second -- the first at 29 seconds by Colin McDonald, the last by Brad Boyes. "We would have gotten blown out," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We had to respond."
The Rangers tied the score on Carl Hagelin's power-play poke-in at 11:14 that was deemed a goal after a video review. But Nabokov shut the door after that. He stopped all 12 shots he faced in the third period and four more in overtime.
"They scored right away and it gave them confidence," said Biron, making his second start of the season. "Sometimes I need to make a save to stop the bleeding. I think the Tavares two-on-one might have been the one for me to make."
So for the second straight game, the Rangers coughed up a lead of at least two goals. In Boston on Tuesday, they blew a 3-0 lead in the third before winning in a shootout. "I don't know if we got too lazy or comfortable," said Hagelin, the best Ranger with a goal, an assist and seven shots.
John Tortorella benched Brad Richards in the third for all but 47 seconds. "He struggled," Tortorella said. "I felt I had to . . . we had a number of guys screw up on the back end and we found a way to get a point. We don't leave here naked."
In the second, Marc Staal said, the problem was evident. "They were a lot more aggressive and a lot quicker on the forecheck," he said. "We didn't respond quick enough."
The Rangers had a good start to the third, which began tied 3-3. Nash had several chances and Nabokov made a nice stop on Taylor Pyatt. Brian Boyle -- who had been a healthy scratch for three games but finished with five shots and a team-high eight hits -- was high-sticked by Joe Finley at 2:14, but the Rangers' power play, which finished 1-for-4, failed to capitalize.
The Islanders' best chance came with 5:17 left, as Matt Moulson sent a pass to Tavares, who one-timed a shot that Biron stopped.
The Rangers controlled the first period with the first 10 shots. Hagelin, from behind Nabokov's net, found Dan Girardi in the right circle, and his one-timer struck Andrew MacDonald and caromed in for his first goal of the season at 3:36. Nash had the other assist for his 11th point in 13 games.
On the ninth shot, Gaborik fired in Richards' rebound for his seventh goal and second in eight games at 11:28.
The Islanders didn't manage a shot until Matt Martin, on a breakaway with Michael Del Zotto whacking at him, forced Biron to make a glove save with 6:02 left.
"Give credit to them," Capuano said. "They were down two and they fought hard and they deserved the two points."