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Islanders scratch out win over Rangers at Garden

New York Islanders left wing Blake Comeau (57),

New York Islanders left wing Blake Comeau (57), right, celebrates with left wings John Tavares, left, and Matt Moulson after scoring the winning goal in the Islanders 2-1 victory over the Rangers. (December 16, 2009) Credit: AP

In a Broadway clash that was hardly a showcase of skill, the Islanders bruised, battled and agitated their way to a 2-1 win over the Rangers last night to effectively erase the lingering effect of Monday's humiliating 7-1 home loss against Florida.

The hard-fought, blue-collar win over their crosstown rivals was just what the Islanders needed to lay their ugliest defeat to rest.

"To come off a game like that is huge," coach Scott Gordon said. "You never are 100 percent sure how your team will respond after a loss like that."

Two days after their worst game of the season - one pockmarked by mental errors, defensive gaffes and breakaways galore - the Islanders recovered and redeemed themselves.

"Huge," Andy Sutton said. "That's the way you want to respond, definitely."

The Islanders set the tone early, as they hogged the bulk of scoring chances in the first period and held what appeared to be an apathetic Rangers team to one shot through 16:12 minutes of play.

Jon Sim was at his agitating best and was rewarded with the Islanders' first goal at 14:25. Defenseman Jack Hillen swept around the back of the net and backhanded one toward the crease, causing the puck to bounce off Sim's skate and flutter over Henrik Lundqvist's head to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.

The rivalry seemed rather lukewarm in a lopsided and lackluster first period, but the intensity escalated quickly after a heated brawl in the second period started by Dwayne Roloson and Sean Avery.

Avery loitered in front of the net after Roloson's save on Dan Girardi's wrister and received a hearty whack on the leg for his extra effort followed by a swipe to the jaw. Avery then shoved Roloson to the ice which began a melee that ensnared every player on the ice save Lundqvist.

"He slashed me and speared me," said Roloson, who finished with 25 saves. "When a guy takes liberties like that you've got to defend yourself."

The Islanders kept things simple as they protected their lead with tough forechecking pressure and smart, sound play in all three zones.

Blake Comeau provided the insurance goal at 16:50 as he lifted a rebound from Matt Moulson's drive past Lundqvist's left shoulder.

"It was a big win for us especially coming off the last one we had," Comeau said. "Basically, we knew we had to put the past one behind us and move on."

Enver Lisin spoiled Roloson's shutout bid with less than a minute to play as he sneaked in behind Roloson and tapped through Girardi's shot, but the Islanders held the lead to beat the Rangers for the second time this season.

And Thursday night, the Islanders will try for a third.

"Do the same thing," Sutton said. "This is the great thing about back-to-back games in a playoff-like atmosphere, when you get on a roll you can start something special."

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