Goaltender Cam Talbot's warm-up routine includes bending over at the blue line, with players skating around him, and staring at the empty net for a minute. Then he carries a puck in and shoots at the cage before taking shots from his teammates again.
The routine was in place again Tuesday night as Talbot made his third NHL start. The 26-year-old backup to Henrik Lundqvist allowed just two goals on 24 shots, one on a bad-angle try with 48 seconds left in the second period, in a 3-2 win over the Islanders.
A shot by Travis Hamonic bounced off Talbot's outstretched glove, hit Dan Girardi -- who was standing alone in front -- in the chest and caromed in. Desperate swipes of sticks by Girardi and Talbot couldn't prevent the puck from sliding over the line.
"It was just a fluke," Talbot said of the goal. "[Girardi] was doing the right thing, turning around in the box. The guy was [standing] back door. The guy batted it over me and hit him . . . .You can't really think about that, because you can't really help it. You have to move on and we came out hard in the third."
Talbot tapped the veteran defenseman sympathetically with his stick, sending a "tough break" message, but the goal gave the Islanders a 2-1 edge in a game that the Rangers led, 1-0, after the first period on a goal by Chris Kreider.
Girardi said of Talbot, "He's been really good for us, has given us a chance to win every game. He's really stepped up."
Added Ryan McDonagh: "He kind of thrives off the intensity, which is good to see."
Talbot, who made 22 saves, helped the Rangers hang in and pull out a win after a two-goal third. Benoit Pouliot's high-slot wrister with 6:14 left won it.
Talbot has been quite a find for Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. He lost, 2-1, to the Flyers in Philadelphia and helped the Blueshirts beat Detroit, 3-2, in overtime last Saturday. "I'm not really going out there trying to surprise anyone," Talbot said. "I'm just trying to help this team get back into it."
Vigneault could have used Lundqvist, who said he was healthy after Monday night's loss, but opted for Talbot. "It's just a question of back-to-back games," Vigneault said. "I mentioned before that I needed a goaltender who could play 15 to 20 games and this is one of those back-to-back situations, even though it's not long travel. Talbot's played well and Hank played [Monday] night . . . We've got a stretch of nine games in 15 nights, so you've got to use both your goaltenders, and this one makes a lot of sense."
The Rangers play their next four games at home, beginning with the Sabres and former Islander Matt Moulson on Thursday.
Notes & quotes: C Dominic Moore left in the first period with an upper-body injury, the team said, and did not return . . . Carl Hagelin, activated from long-term injured reserve following offseason shoulder surgery, had the primary assist on Pouliot's deciding goal.