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Kevin Hayes returns from injury, scores on power play for Rangers

The center had suffered a lower-body injury last Sunday in the Rangers’ loss to Vegas.

Rangers center Kevin Hayes reacts after he scores

Rangers center Kevin Hayes reacts after he scores a power-play goal against Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak during the first period at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Center Kevin Hayes, who suffered a lower-body injury in last Sunday’s game in Las Vegas, was given a 50-50 chance at best to play against the Islanders, according to coach Alain Vigneault.

But Hayes took warmups without pain and was inserted into the lineup. He produced right away when he scored a power-play goal with 5:35 left in the first period to tie it at 1. He one-timed Rick Nash’s backhand pass from the boards for his 10th goal of the season.

Hayes had a team-leading 13 shot attempts (seven on goal, five attempts blocked and one miss). He won 8 of 20 faceoffs.

Missed opportunities

Michael Grabner’s speed created three chances in the first and the Rangers couldn’t convert any of them. At 2:08 in and with Marc Staal serving a tripping penalty, Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak gloved his wrister. At 11:12, with Mats Zuccarello in the penalty box, he missed wide with a backhander from 18 feet. Then Grabner stole the puck at center-ice and found Vinni Lettieri for a two-on-one, but the rookie hit the crossbar from about 20 feet.

Orr mixes it up

Former Rangers enforcer Colton Orr supported former goalie and current commentator Steve Valiquette on Twitter when he called for the Rangers to stir the pot.

“Thanks for the Love @VallysView on the @MSGNetworks intermission.” Orr tweeted. “I do agree with him, Rangers are coming off the break playing @TheGarden, someone has to do something to get the team and fans going. Doesn’t have to be a fight, can be a hit or blocked shot, anything.”

Blue notes

Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei each were a minus-4 . . . Henrik Lundqvist stopped 16 of 18 shots in relief . . . The Rangers have won just one of their last 11 games in regulation (4-1 over Anaheim on Dec. 19) and have scored just six goals in their last four . . . To try to find a solid pairing, Vigneault put Ryan McDonagh and Steven Kampfer together in the third . . . F Paul Carey and D Brendan Smith were healthy scratches . . . The Islanders and Rangers meet two more times this season.

New York Sports