The New York Islanders completed their second comeback in as many games, rallying from a 3-1 hole to stun the New York Rangers 5-3 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Captain John Tavares picked up three assists and Thomas Vanek scored the game winner with 4:38 to play. Matt Martin, Colin McDonald and Thomas Hickey built the comeback, each finding the back of the net at key points.
“The secondary guys came up big,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “They generated, they got pucks in, they grinded it out. Our top line guys struggled a bit in the first, but they came around.”
Vanek’s winner – his second against the Rangers this season – came on a late power play, as the Blueshirts bench was whistled for too many men on the ice. On the man advantage, Frans Nielsen’s point shot was redirected in the slot by Tavares, before landing on Vanek’s stick as he cut in front the net and slipped the puck past goalie Cam Talbot.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Vanek, who finished the game with two points, said.
Tavares also had the primary helper on Martin and McDonald's goals.
“I thought we were the better team in this game,” Tavares said. “I thought we carried the play. We played hard, made it difficult on them and got better as the game went on.”
The Islanders overcame a pair of two-goal deficits, starting with a 2-0 hole in the first period. Rick Nash opened the scoring right out of the gate, netting the first of his two first-period goals just over a minute into the contest. Nash scored his second 10 minutes later on a breakaway, beating goalie Kevin Poulin with a forehand deke.
The early hole didn’t faze the Islanders, who outshot the Rangers 16-12 in the first period, eventually cutting the deficit in half on Martin’s third goal of the season. Tavares found Martin streaking to the net for a one-time snapper past Talbot.
Chris Kreider restored the Rangers’ two-goal advantage with a power play goal midway through the second period, shoveling in a loose puck in the crease after Nash's initial shot rang off the post and caromed off Poulin.
The Islanders once again started chipping away at the two-goal deficit, beginning at 13:22 of he middle frame, when Hickey tapped in a cross-ice feed from Kyle Okposo. Three minutes later, McDonald tied the score at three, finishing a rebound from Tavares.
“We’re a resilient team. It comes down to the third period and if you win the third period, you win the game,” Hickey said. “[Poor starts] is not a trend we’re looking to continue… but it’s good to know that we can be down and still be able to come back.”
Frans Nielsen added an empty-net goal with seven seconds remaining to seal the game, while Poulin stopped 30-of-33 for the win. Talbot made 32 saves in the loss.
The Islanders play the Rangers two more times before the end of the month, but now shift their focus to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who visit Nassau Coliseum Thursday night. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.
NOTES: The Islanders picked up back-to-back wins against Metropolitan Division opponents for the first time this season… With two assists, Kyle Okposo is seventh in league scoring (20-31-51)… Andrew MacDonald led the Islanders with 25:21… Calvin de Haan and Hickey each blocked five shots… Brock Nelson won 11-of-15 faceoffs (73%).