Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist during a three-goal first period and the New York Rangers began a last-ditch push for an unlikely playoff spot with a 5-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
After losing three straight, including a devastating 2-1 loss Sunday at Boston, the Rangers brought a newfound looseness into their fifth meeting of the season with their metropolitan rivals.
Gaborik scored his second of the game and team-leading 39th of the season with 9:16 left in the third, and defenseman Dan Girardi added New York’s second power-play tally of the game with 3:41 remaining to make it 5-0.
The Rangers came out hard and scored three times on 12 shots in the first 8:30 against goalie Dwayne Roloson. The 10th-place Rangers moved within five points of eighth-place Boston, but have only nine games left.
Artem Anisimov got the offense started at 3:12. Gaborik followed 2:33 later and then helped set up defenseman Michael Del Zotto’s power-play tally at 8:30 that made it 3-0. The Rangers held a 12-2 shots edge at that point and went on to outshoot the Islanders 44-27 overall, making it a relatively easy night for goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
It was Lundqvist’s third shutout of the season and the 23rd of his five-year NHL career. He is one win away from his fifth straight 30-win campaign.
The game was the first hockey contest to be shown on 3D television, but it didn’t take high technology to see which team played with more desperation. The Islanders, playing for the first time since an 1-1-1 West Coast trip, are 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
Roloson recovered from his rough start and finished with 39 saves. He kept the Islanders in relative shooting distance by stopping Erik Christensen and Gaborik on breakaways in the second period when the Rangers outshot the Islanders 17-3.
The Rangers said Tuesday after practice that a looser atmosphere had enveloped the team after Sunday’s loss delivered a severe blow to their playoff hopes.
They wasted little time in displaying an intense focus that was arguably missing in the loss to Boston and through large chunks of what has shaped up to be a disappointing season — the first full campaign under coach John Tortorella.
Sean Avery quickly got under the skin of the Islanders, jawing with Roloson and engaging in a discussion with defenseman Bruno Gervais. Avery was also seen chatting with Trevor Gillies and Freddy Meyer during pregame warmups.
Gaborik, who injured a groin during the Vancouver Olympics, had only two goals and five assists in eight games following the break. He took a pass from Brandon Dubinsky from behind the net and scored from in front to make it 2-0. Gaborik’s pass from the left circle to the right circle set up Del Zotto’s one-timer that pushed the lead to three.
Anisimov also scored from the right circle after a shot from Matt Gilroy hit Rangers teammate Jody Shelley in front.
NOTES: Islanders backup G Martin Biron was on the bench one day after the birth of his fourth child, a girl. ... The Rangers failed to score on a 2-minute, 5-on-3 advantage in the third period, but converted on the second half of the power play. ... Islanders D Dustin Kohn was injured in the third and didn’t return.