NEW YORK – The New York Islanders finally had a third period to brag about.
After two straight late meltdowns at home, the Islanders turned a strong effort by backup goalie Joey MacDonald into a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on a pair of short-handed goals by rookie Nate Thompson and Richard Park.
“It was a huge morale-lifter for us,” Thompson said after his first NHL point broke up the deadlock in the third period. “I can’t say enough for our team and Joey MacDonald for sticking with the game plan.”
Just 4:42 after Thompson scored, during a different Rangers power play, Park netted the Islanders’ league-leading sixth short-handed tally. The Islanders got out of a frustrated Madison Square Garden with their best win of the season despite being outshot 36-19.
In their previous two games, the Islanders squandered three-goal leads in the third. The first on Saturday resulted in a 5-4 regulation loss to Montreal. On Monday, they recovered to beat Columbus 4-3 in overtime at home.
The Islanders own a two-game winning streak following six straight losses (0-5-1), and they moved out of last-place in the league standings (4-7-1).
“After the second period, we made a point to say, ‘Let’s let them beat themselves. Let’s let them make some mistakes and try to capitalize on some opportunities. If we can do that and sneak two points out of here, then it’s a good win,”‘ Park said.
Markus Naslund wrecked MacDonald’s bid for his first NHL shutout when he scored with 1:41 left.
Despite the Rangers having a 29-12 shots advantage through two periods, this one was still too close to call. The Rangers entered with a league-high 21 points, but they ended the night with a more dubious distinction of having allowed an NHL-worst five short-handed goals this season.
The Rangers have dropped two straight after their franchise-best 10-2-1 start. This effort against their biggest rival came on the heels of a disappointing loss at Toronto on Saturday when they led 2-0 in the third period only to fall 5-2.
They went 0-for-4 on the power play, while giving up two goals, after connecting at least once with the advantage in five of the previous six games.
“Unacceptable performance,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “The power play let us down. Take responsibility for it. Power play structure, if people are committed to it and work hard at it, it can work. We are playing outside of what we have been teaching our guys.”
MacDonald entered the third period with a shot at his first NHL shutout for the second straight night. Subbing for injured No. 1 goalie Rick DiPietro, MacDonald settled for his seventh career NHL win in his 26th game.
He admitted to being a bit disappointed to lose the shutout, but was happy to get out with a victory.
“This time of the year, the wins are more important,” MacDonald said.
Thompson finally solved Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist after Frans Nielsen’s shot hit the post. The puck popped in the air, and Thompson swatted it in with a baseball swing at 3:18.
“I envisioned it going off my shin pad or something like that. Definitely not like that, but it felt great,” Thompson said. “I played baseball for two years. I don’t know what my batting average was, but I don’t think it was too good.”
Park then broke up Michal Rozsival’s cross-ice pass at the blue-line and streaked down the left side. His drive eluded Lundqvist at 8:00.
The Rangers dominated on the shot clock in the second period, but couldn’t dent MacDonald. He made 18 saves in the frame, while the Islanders sent only five shots in on Lundqvist.
“We had the momentum on our side, and I take responsibility for having two mistakes on the power play that cost us the game,” Rozsival said. “There’s no excuse for that.”
Gordon used his timeout with 7:57 left after MacDonald reached over his head and behind it to snare Rozsival’s rising drive. At that point, the Rangers held a 14-2 shots advantage in the second and 25-9 overall.
Notes: Islanders LW Sean Bergenheim sat out for the second straight night due to a virus. … The Islanders placed D Freddy Meyer on the injured list. He expected to be sidelined a few weeks following sports hernia surgery. … The Rangers fell to 4-1 against Atlantic Division foes. They had been 4-0-2 in their previous six meetings with the Islanders, including a 4-2 road win Oct. 27. … D Chris Campoli scored a short-handed goal for the Islanders on Monday.