UNIONDALE, N.Y. – John Tortorella isn’t shy about his distaste for the Nassau Coliseum.
But New York Rangers centre Brad Richards might make his coach a fan if he keeps scoring clutch goals there against the rival New York Islanders.
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 on Tuesday night.
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.
“Whenever you play in this building, it’s up and down, and you never know what’s going to happen,” Tortorella said. “Richie has had some big plays for us early on here. I thought that it was probably one of his better games.”
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.”
Henrik 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 netted tying goals, but the Islanders weren’t able to nudge in front.
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.
Scoring hasn’t been much of a concern for the Rangers during their streak as they have outscored opponents 27-11. The key to their success has been Richards, who has five points (three goals, two assists) in the seven games.
“We signed him for nine years. That’s exactly why we signed him,” 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.”
NOTES: Islanders forward Kyle Okposo was a healthy scratch, making room in the lineup for Nino Niederreiter, who returned from a conditioning assignment. … Avery’s fight with Mike Mottau concluded a peculiar sequence between the Rangers agitator and Islanders defenceman. Avery had collided with Mottau near the end of the first period. Both exchanged words and appeared to agree to a fight. However, before they exchanged punches, both were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Mottau spent the end of the period in the penalty box, but Avery was sent to the dressing room. The two fought when their penalties expired 1:09 into the second period. . The Islanders announced the game as a sellout, although there were pockets of empty seats.