The New York Rangers expected clutch performances from Brad Richards when they signed him to a long and lucrative contract.
On Tuesday, he delivered.
Richards’ go-ahead goal with 4:55 remaining snapped a tie and sent the Rangers to their seventh straight victory, 4-2 over the Islanders.
Richards broke a 2-2 tie, and Ryan Callahan added an empty-net goal in the final second for the Rangers, who are on their longest winning streak since October 2009 when they also won seven in a row.
The Rangers have outscored opponents 27-11 during their winning streak. Richards has five points (three goals, two assists) in the seven games.
“We signed him for nine years. That’s exactly why we signed him,” Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said of Richards. “A guy like that, he has a tendency to step up at the right time. His focus is good when it comes down to the final minutes, when you need that extra play. It’s great to see.”
The Islanders (4-8-3) returned home from a three-game road trip and lost for the fifth time in six outings.
“It’s frustrating,” coach Jack Capuano said. “We played one of our better games.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Ottawa 3 Calgary 1; Phoenix 3 Toronto 2 (SO); Pittsburgh 6 Colorado 3; Boston 4 New Jersey 3; Minnesota 4 Columbus 2; St. Louis 2 Detroit 1; Nashville 3 Washington 1; and Florida 6 Dallas 0.
At Uniondale, N.Y., Lundqvist made 31 saves for his seventh win in 13 games this season. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 26 shots in the loss.
Sean Avery and defenceman Steve Eminger also scored for the Rangers (10-3-3). Frans Nielsen and Matt Moulson both scored tying goals, but the Islanders weren’t able to nudge in front.
“Whenever you play in this building, it’s up and down, and you never know what’s going to happen,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of the Islanders’ Nassau Coliseum. “Richie has had some big plays for us early on here. I thought that it was probably one of his better games.”
Avery’s second goal of the season, and second in two games, gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 14:43 in. With Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko causing havoc around the crease, Avery snapped a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Nabokov to the stick side.
“It feels good just to feel good,” Avery said.
The Islanders tied it just 2:49 later when Nielsen scored with an off-the-rush drive. The game then turned into the typical grind usually generated in this fierce rivalry. The Islanders finished with 29 hits, and the Rangers had 24.
Eminger put the Rangers ahead for the second time at 6:07 of the second period with his first goal since New York’s 6-0 win at Washington on Feb. 25. Eminger has 18 goals in 427 NHL games.
Callahan set him up for the goal with a pass from below the hash marks.
“I saw him creeping in a little bit,” Callahan said. “I was trying to buy him a little bit of time to get him back there. I saw him and made the pass.”
Moulson’s tip-in during a power play at 13:02 got the Islanders even again at 2-2. Moulson slipped past defenceman Dan Girardi and redirected John Tavares’ centring feed past Lundqvist.
But the goal crystallized a season-long issue with the Islanders. Offensive production outside of the Moulson-Tavares-Michael Grabner line hasn’t been there.
“We have to get secondary scoring to win,” Capuano said.
Tavares sounded every bit as frustrated as his coach.
“The puck’s just not going in,” he said.
Senators 3 Flames 1
At Calgary, Craig Anderson made 38 saves, and Bobby Butler scored his first two goals of the season in Ottawa’s victory over the Flames.
Coyotes 3 Maple Leafs 2 (SO)
At Toronto, Patrick O’Sullivan and Radim Vrbata scored shootout goals, and Phoenix overcame the Maple Leafs’ late rally.
Penguins 6 Avalanche 3
At Pittsburgh, James Neal had a goal and two assists as the Penguins rallied past Colorado.
Bruins 4 Devils 3
At Boston, Benoit Pouliot scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:01 left in the third period to lift the Bruins over New Jersey and send the defending Stanley Cup champions to their sixth consecutive win.
Wild 4 Blue Jackets 2
At Columbus, Ohio, Cal Clutterbuck scored in the third period and Minnesota rallied to beat the Blue Jackets.
Blues 2 Red Wings 1
At St. Louis, Alex Steen scored unassisted for the go-ahead goal in the second period, and the Blues held Detroit to single-digit shots in all three periods of its one-goal victory.
Predators 3 Capitals 1
At Nashville, Tenn., Colin Wilson scored with 24.3 seconds remaining and Pekka Rinne made 39 saves to lift the Predators over Washington.
Panthers 6 Stars 0
At Dallas, Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss each had a goal and two assists, and Scott Clemmensen made 25 saves for the shutout to lead Florida over the Stars.