Islanders captain Doug Weight, in his first game back following a bout with swine flu, earned an assist on Kyle Okposo’s tiebreaking, power-play goal in the second period that lifted New York to a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Weight, sidelined three games by the illness, sent a cross-ice pass to Jack Hillen in the Rangers’ zone. The defenceman fired a drive that bounced off goalie Henrik Lundqvist and past Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi onto the stick of Okposo, who slammed the puck into the open right side with 1:46 left.
Islanders rookie John Tavares, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, snapped a four-game scoreless streak with 5:06 left by netting his fourth goal in New York’s first regulation win.
P.A. Parenteau, in the Rangers’ lineup only because top scorer Marian Gaborik sat out because of an undisclosed injury sustained two nights earlier, scored his first NHL goal. Henrik Lundqvist looked sharp in making 29 saves, but took the loss one day after he was in a minor car accident on his way to practice.
The Rangers (8-4-1) are 1-3-1 following a seven-game winning streak.
It is unclear how long Gaborik will be out but the forward, who has 10 goals, will surely want to play Friday at Minnesota when New York takes on his former team. Gaborik spent his first eight NHL seasons with the Wild.
Hillen tied career highs with two assists and two points. He received the lone assist on Matt Moulson’s team-leading sixth of the season – scored on a breakaway 55 seconds into the game.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 34 shots for the Islanders, who earned their second win of the season (2-4-5) – both at home. The Islanders managed to hang on and avoid a repeat of recent third-period collapses.
The 38-year-old Weight kept his shifts short in his return to the ice for the first time since being diagnosed with the H1N1 flu strain eight days earlier. Weight is the fourth NHL player known to have contracted swine flu.
Washington forward Quintin Laing, Edmonton defenceman Ladislav Smid, and Colorado goalie Peter Budaj also have the illness, their teams said this week. Weight, who missed two earlier games this season because of a groin injury, earned his third assist in six games.
Moulson started the scoring when he got free of defenceman Matt Gilroy and forward Chris Drury and raced in alone. He snapped a quick shot that beat Lundqvist’s blocker for his fifth goal in eight games.
Parenteau tied it at 8:30 when he got to a loose puck in the slot and sent a backhander through traffic and past Roloson.
The Rangers didn’t register many prime scoring chances, and were twice denied by shots that rang off posts. Marc Staal struck iron with 4.5 seconds left in the first period, and Enver Lisin nailed the crossbar in the second.
NOTES: Hillen, who has 10 points in the NHL, also had two assists on March 7 against New Jersey. His only goal was scored against the Rangers on March 5. … Rangers enforcer Donald Brashear sat out for the fourth time in seven games due to an undisclosed injury. Aaron Voros took his place in the lineup. … Parenteau, recalled from Hartford of the AHL on Tuesday, made his Rangers debut. He had one assist in five previous NHL games with Chicago.