NEW YORK, N.Y. – Former Islanders defenceman Bryan McCabe got the best of former Rangers goalie Al Montoya and sparked a power play that is suddenly quite potent.
McCabe had a goal and an assist, and the Rangers scored three times with the man advantage against Montoya en route to a 6-3 victory Tuesday night that bolstered their playoff hopes.
The Rangers jumped two points ahead of Buffalo into seventh place in the Eastern Conference and hold a four-point edge on Carolina, which is below the post-season cutoff. Three more teams, including the hard-charging New Jersey Devils, are another four points behind.
“We follow it but we have to play our game,” said Marian Gaborik, who scored two goals to reach 20 this season. “We can control only how we play.”
Brandon Prust netted a short-handed goal, and Erik Christensen scored on the power play in a dominating first period in which the Rangers grabbed a 2-0 lead and took 21 shots.
Ryan Callahan, Gaborik, and McCabe scored in a span of 7:40 in the second as the Rangers took control again after the Islanders tied it. The Rangers returned home for the first time in more than a week, following a 1-1 trip to California, and recorded 47 shots in winning for the fourth time in five games.
“We were just getting pucks through,” McCabe said. “Traffic is the key to success.”
McCabe, chosen by the Islanders in the second round of the 1993 draft, scored his first goal with the Rangers since being acquired from Florida on Feb. 26. Montoya never played for the Rangers after being picked No. 6 overall in 2004.
“It was against my former team that I started with,” McCabe said of his goal. “It was nice to get a win here.”
Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves for his 29th win, and Gaborik scored another on backup goalie Nathan Lawson with 7:17 left. The Rangers, 4-1 against the Islanders this season, have outscored opponents 13-3 in their last two home games.
Gaborik has three goals in four games after missing six because of a concussion.
“It was a big win,” Gaborik said. “We had a tough couple of games on the West Coast so it was nice to come back and score a couple of goals on home ice.”
The Islanders showed life early in the second and got even 3:50 in. Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau scored 2:29 apart—both off assists from John Tavares, who also scored a power-play goal to make it 6-3 with 4:03 remaining.
Moulson’s goal was his team-leading 30th for the Islanders, who lost in regulation for the first time in eight games (4-1-3).
“It would be a lot nicer if they were contributing to big wins,” Moulson said of his milestone. “I’ve got to do whatever it takes to win, so if I’ve got to get a couple more, I’ll get a couple more.”
The Rangers were being outshot 5-2 in the second before busting out again. They were greatly helped by the Islanders’ undisciplined play that led to three penalties and recorded the final 13 shots of the second.
“We came out slow,” Moulson said. “Even though we came back from two, it’s tough. It takes a lot of energy to come back in this league. We took some penalties and they capitalized. It’s tough to win when you’re short-handed for most of the second period.
“They got the momentum and it eventually killed us.”
Callahan scored an even-strength goal when a pass from Artem Anisimov from behind the net slid through the crease behind Montoya, off the goalie’s skate, and to Callahan, who scored into the open right side to make it 3-2 at 11:31.
“The boys battled back after a tough first,” Montoya said. “That third one was a backbreaker.”
As a hooking penalty to Blake Comeau ticked down, a short-handed chance was stopped by McCabe. Gaborik picked up the loose puck, raced up the right side and snapped a shot from above the circles to restore the Rangers’ two-goal lead with 4:51 left.
Travis Hamonic and Michael Grabner were whistled for tripping and hooking 1:11 apart to give the Rangers a 5-on-3 advantage that McCabe made the most of with another long shot.
Prust gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with the team’s 11th short-handed goal of the season just 3:47 in, and Christensen pushed it to 2-0 with New York’s first power-play goal.
Notes: McCabe has six goals this season and three assists in eight games with the Rangers. … Sean Avery, in the Rangers’ lineup after a one-game benching, and Islanders F Micheal Haley were both called for boarding in the first period. NHL general managers determined during meetings Tuesday that more aggressive enforcement of charging and boarding violations will reduce concussions. … Moulson reached 30 goals for the second straight season. … Montoya was replaced by Lawson to start the third after allowing five goals on 36 shots. … The Rangers’ 21 shots in the first period tied a season high.