NEW YORK – Coach Tom Renney and the New York Rangers got just what they needed as their season spiralled out of control – a timely visit from the cellar-dwelling New York Islanders.
Scott Gomez’s power-play goal in the second period snapped a tie and gave the Rangers a long-awaited win Wednesday night, 3-1 over the Islanders.
The Rangers certainly didn’t break out of their offensive funk, nor did they cure their power-play ills, but they did enough against their biggest rival to earn their second win in 10 games (2-6-2).
“It is a good feeling. It has been a while since I had this feeling,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 25 saves. “We played pretty much the same way, we just found a way to score two goals.”
The Rangers had two or fewer in eight of nine games, and got to three against the Islanders when Fredrik Sjostrom hit an empty net in the final minute.
Nigel Dawes scored in the first period, and Lundqvist chipped in with an assist for the Rangers, who began the night in a four-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Chris Drury had three assists.
Because the Rangers never trailed, there were no repeated calls for the firings of Renney and general manager Glen Sather as there were Sunday at Madison Square Garden during a lacklustre 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
“These guys want to win badly,” Renney said. “They like nothing less than a game like (Philadelphia). Tonight I thought the guys were alert and wanted to win it badly.”
It was the Rangers’ first regulation victory since they beat Carolina at home on Jan. 27 – the last time Gomez had a goal.
Mark Streit had the lone goal, and Yann Danis made 35 saves for the Islanders, who failed to win back-to-back games after snapping their 0-4-1 skid Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders have the fewest points in the NHL and only two wins against Atlantic Division opponents (2-13-2).
“Our guys competed, but it would have been nice to come in here and get the win,” said Islanders rookie coach Scott Gordon, who has lost four of five with the Rangers. “We certainly knew we were up against a tough opponent that had to make a stand here given their situation. I thought our guys answered the bell.”
The Islanders matched the Rangers physical play and stepped it up after defenceman Erik Reitz stuck out his knee and nailed Sean Bergenheim’s knee in the second period. Islanders forward Andy Hilbert immediately charged Reitz, and Bergenheim ended up in a fight with Petr Prucha.
Bergenheim briefly left the ice, but later returned. He hopes to play Thursday against Carolina.
“I definitely thought that it wasn’t a clean hit,” Bergenheim said. “I am really, really lucky that I’m standing here with both of my feet. If it had been a little bit lower, it could have been really bad.
“You don’t really want to take nights off against the Rangers so it was good to come back. … Right now it is hurting.”
It took a gift goal for the Rangers to end their power-play woes that lasted parts of 11 games (1-for-35). Gomez got the puck from Drury and raced end to end before releasing a seemingly harmless shot through three Islanders from a few feet inside the blue line. Danis knocked the puck down with his gloves but it sneaked between his pads 7:26 into the second period.
“I don’t know how that went in. It is just one of those things,” Gomez said. “You shoot the puck, and good things will happen.”
The teams traded goals in the first.
Dawes, a healthy scratch on Monday when the Rangers lost 2-1 at St. Louis, took a pass from Drury – from below the goal-line – on the dot in the right circle and sent a one-timer past Danis 5:39 in.
Lundqvist started the play and earned his second assist of the season.
Streit answered less than three minutes later during a shift in which he broke up Prucha’s mini breakaway chance with a slash on the Rangers forward’s wrist. Blake Comeau threaded a pass to Streit, who cut in and let go a shot as he went to a knee.
The all-star defenceman has 10 goals and a team-leading 39 points in 52 games.
Lundqvist protected the Rangers’ slim lead about six minutes into the third when he stopped Frans Nielsen and Hilbert in rapid succession at the left post.
Notes: Dawes replaced LW Lauri Korpikoski (upper body injury) in the lineup. … Rangers D Paul Mara doesn’t have structural damage in his right shoulder and won’t require surgery. … Streit played his second game after missing five due to a left shoulder injury. … Lundqvist has four career assists. He also had two during the 2005-06 season. … The Rangers are 9-2 when Gomez scores. … The Islanders were 0-for-4 on the power play and have failed in 26 straight against the Rangers.