Marian Gaborik keeps validating his hot start to this season as no fluke, and putting last season's disappointments further and further behind him.

Gaborik's second-period goal -- his 20th of the season -- was his fifth in the last three games and ties him for the NHL lead. It also gave the Rangers the lead for good in a 4-2 win over the Islanders at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.

"It feels good, especially when it helps win the game,'' Gaborik said. "It's still a long season. Hopefully I can keep it up.''

The Rangers had several outstanding plays, none prettier than what resulted in Gaborik's sneaky go-ahead goal at 7:52 in the second period.

Off a faceoff in the left circle, Artem Anisimov passed to Gaborik, whose timing on a cut straight to the net was perfect. He faked left and slipped the puck past Evgeni Nabokov's glove to the right.

"It was a set play,'' said Gaborik, who signaled to Anisimov where he wanted the puck and then delivered. "We've tried it a few times. Glad it worked out today.''

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It was Gaborik's 10th goal in the last 11 games. His 20 goals tie him with Toronto's Phil Kessel, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Chicago's Jonathan Toews for the league lead.

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto followed with his fourth goal of the season at 15:25 of the second and Jonathan Mitchell added an empty-netter with 1:33 remaining in the third.

Gaborik, 29, had 22 goals in 62 games last season after scoring 42 for the Rangers in 2009-10. There were questions about his dropoff and doubts that he could regain his standing as one of the best scorers in the league.

Gaborik also lost a close mentor, Pavol Demitra, in the tragic plane crash in Russia over the summer. The two were teammates in Minnesota.

Through the adversity, Gaborik has bounced back seemingly better than ever, starting the season on a torrid pace and hardly slowing down.

"The puck seems to be following me,'' he said. "It's a lot about confidence as well.''

The performance is welcomed by the Rangers, who have been tested by multiple injuries to the defense this season. Gaborik's goal put the Rangers ahead 2-1 in the third period against the Devils on Tuesday (he added a late empty-netter), and his two goals helped key the Rangers' victory over Phoenix on Saturday night.

His linemates, Anisimov and Derek Stepan, could be a reason for that. They've emerged as dependable playmakers and have totaled 20 points in the past 10 games.

"My linemates there are clicking together well,'' Gaborik said. "Things are going in right now. Hopefully, I can make it last.''