Thomas Vanek scored the game-winner on a power play with 4:38 left in regulation Tuesday night as the surging Islanders overcame a 3-1 second-period deficit for a 5-3 win at Madison Square Garden and snapped the Rangers' three-game winning streak.
The Isles, who have won two straight against the Rangers, have won seven of nine and raised their record to 21-24-7. It was their ninth road win in the past 11 games.
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After a crackling 40 minutes as the snow fell outside the Garden, the teams were tied at 3-3 entering the final 20 minutes.
The fourth power play for the Rangers came when Josh Bailey tripped Derick Brassard at 5:54. Goaltender Kevin Poulin (30 saves), who had never faced the Rangers, stopped Brad Richards on the only Blueshirts shot on goal as the Rangers vainly tried to force passes into the middle.
But the Islanders cashed in on their fifth power-play opportunity with 5:35 left when the Rangers, who started Cam Talbot because Henrik Lundqvist was ill, were whistled for too many men -- seven -- on the ice. John Tavares had his third assist on the goal when he tipped a point shot to Vanek; the line of Vanek, Tavares and Kyle Okposo finished with seven points. Frans Neilsen scored an empty-netter with 6.1 seconds left.
Trailing 3-1 after Chris Kreider's power-play tap-in from the doorstep at 9:34 of the second, the Isles -- who seem to raise their level when down by two goals -- kept coming and tied the game with goals from two unlikely scorers. Thomas Hickey's third of the season came at 13:22 and after Talbot got his body in front of Tavares' shot, Colin McDonald spun and shot high past Talbot's glove from the slot at 16:36.
Nash opened the scoring at 1:10 of the first on a feed from Kreider, but the Islanders dominated the first half of the period, forcing Talbot to make seven saves. The Rangers did kill Michael Del Zotto's penalty, then Nash struck again, beating Poulin on a breakaway at 11:07 for his second two-goal effort in as many games. Dan Carcillo almost made it 3-0, but he hit iron with about five minutes to go in the period.
After Poulin stopped Kreider in close, Matt Martin closed the gap to 2-1, beating Talbot off Tavares' pass at 17:22. Casey Cizikas went to the box moments later, but Benoit Pouliot's cross-check of Andy MacDonald in front negated the man advantage.
The physical play ramped up at the end of the period, with Dan Girardi pounding MacDonald and Okposo cross-checking Derek Stepan, a penalty at the 20-minute mark which carried into the second period.
The teams will meet again next Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, and again at the Garden two days later.
Talbot got the word when he arrived at the Garden for the morning skate. "Ben [goaltending coach Benoit Allaire] said, 'Hank is sick, you're going tonight,' " Talbot said.
Talbot, who had held opponents to two goals or fewer in 11 of his 13 career starts, made 29 saves in his last appearance, a 4-1 win Saturday in Ottawa.
Lundqvist, who had played seven of the last eight games and was penciled in to start, did not even dress.
Coach Alain Vigneault said it was not a physical issue for Lundqvist, who appeared to tweak his back with about three minutes left in the Washington game Sunday.
Despite his short pro career, Talbot was familiar with the competitive nature of the Rangers and Islanders organizations.
"I know both of the goalies who are down there [in AHL Bridgeport] at this point, [center Brock] Nelson, a couple of the D-men, we always had a good rivalry with Bridgeport," Talbot said. "I've seen them a lot, so I know what they're capable of. When you see a team 12 times a year, obviously some bad blood develops; whether it's up here or down there, I don't think the organizations like each other too much."