UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Doug Weight’s nagging cough reminds him of his bout with swine flu. His creativity on the power play reminds the New York Islanders why they brought back the veteran centre for another NHL season.
Weight, in his first game following his illness, assisted on Kyle Okposo’s tiebreaking, man-advantage goal in the second period that lifted New York to a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
It was the first win in regulation for the Islanders (2-4-5).
“It’s always fun to play them and beat them,” Weight said. “It’s points that we needed badly.”
Weight, sidelined for three games, 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 in the second.
“That play he made to Jack on the backdoor was something that comes with years of experience,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said of Weight. “He can find all the options, and he certainly found that one.”
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. Tavares was trying to hit Weight with a pass, but the puck bounded in off Lundqvist.
“That’s what I was trying to do. Get pucks to the net and get some rebounds,” the 19-year-old Tavares said. “It’s always nice to be working hard. Sometimes bounces go your way.”
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.
“It was one of the best feelings in my life, but it definitely would have been better if we won,” Parenteau said.
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 a seven-game winning streak.
New York coach John Tortorella was frustrated that the Islanders were more physical than his club and pushed the Rangers around.
“We’re way too easy to play against,” Tortorella said.
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 goal – scored on a breakaway 55 seconds in.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 34 shots for the Islanders, who earned their second win – both at home. The Islanders managed to hang on and avoid a repeat of recent third-period collapses.
“We’ve played well, I just think trying too hard was the culprit,” Roloson said. “You can’t give any other reason why we were trying so hard … because we wanted to win so bad. We did whatever we had to do to play a solid 60 minutes.”
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.
“I knew they’d come hard, they always do,” Lundqvist said. “When they get the start they got, they build from it. I think we recovered pretty good but the late goal in the second killed us.
“You can feel the importance of that goal.”
Parenteau tied it 1-1 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 also had two assists on March 7 against New Jersey. … Rangers enforcer Donald Brashear sat out for the fourth time in seven games due to an undisclosed injury. … Parenteau, recalled from Hartford of the AHL on Tuesday, made his Rangers debut. He had one assist in five previous NHL games with Chicago.