Grabner nets pair as Isles down Rangers
New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Michael Grabner broke out of a scoring slump with a pair of goals to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 decision over the New York Rangers in a matchup of slumping rivals from Madison Square Garden.
Grabner, who hadn't tallied in 31 straight games since a two-goal effort in the season opener, and Cal Clutterbuck netted short-handed markers in the first period, while Thomas Vanek snapped a 3-3 tie with a power-play score 1:18 into the third.
Brian Strait added a goal and Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves to help the Islanders notch only their second win in 15 games, with the club entering Manhattan on a woeful 1-9-4 stretch.
"We got 60 minutes of consistent effort from our guys," said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano. "Our penalty kill came up big when they had to and I thought Nabokov did a great job for us."
Henrik Lundqvist stopped only 15-of-19 shots for the Rangers, who fell to 1-4-2 on their franchise-record nine-game homestand. Benoit Pouliot and Derek Stepan both connected on the power play in the loss, with Derek Dorsett also lighting the lamp for the Blueshirts.
The Islanders started the final period with a power play that quickly became a 5-on-3 when the Rangers' Dan Girardi was sent off for interference 42 seconds in. With the two-man advantage, Kyle Okposo delivered a long drive that Vanek redirected home for a 4-3 edge.
The Rangers had four power-play chances following the goal, including one in the game's waning stages when the Isles' Josh Bailey was called for boarding with 2:52 left. With Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker, the Islanders blocked a shot that led to a Grabner breakaway and a game-sealing empty-netter with only 51 seconds on the clock.
"For the most part, we were pretty aggressive [and] we executed our game plan," Grabner said of the penalty kill. "We gave up a couple goals against, but overall it was a pretty good effort for our penalty killers."
Two other power-play opportunities for the Rangers ended up as Islanders' scores as the visitors built an early 2-0 lead.
Clutterbuck was awarded a penalty shot when Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was called for hooking on a backcheck attempt during a Blueshirts' power play, and converted the chance to stake the Islanders to a 1-0 lead with 5:18 to go in the opening period.
Less than 2 1/2 minutes later, Grabner stole the puck from McDonagh on another Rangers' man advantage and beat Lundqvist on a breakaway to increase the margin.
"We gave the team that has a tremendous amount of speed in their penalty killers grade-A scoring chances and they made us pay for it," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault remarked.
The two-goal differential lasted all of 30 seconds, however. With the Rangers still skating on a 5-on-4, Pouliot deposited home a quick feed from Chris Kreider with 2:21 remaining in the opening frame.
Dorsett's shot from the right boards that bounced off Isles blueliner Thomas Hickey and found its way in tied the contest three minutes into the second, and Stepan fired a loose puck into an open left side around five minutes afterward with the Rangers again on a power play to give the home team a 3-2 edge.
Stepan's goal came just moments after Grabner just missed another short-handed chance, striking the crossbar while skating in all alone on Lundqvist.
Strait drew the Islanders even with 8:34 left in the middle session, sending a one-timer from the right point that Lundqvist got a piece of but couldn't corral.
Strait's goal was his first in 44 career NHL regular-season games, though he tallied once during last season's Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with Pittsburgh ... The Islanders are 10-3-2 this season when scoring three times or more and 0-16-5 when recording two or fewer goals ... The Rangers hadn't lost in regulation in their last 10 meetings with the Isles, going 8-0-2 over that span ... Lundqvist appeared in his 539rd game as a Ranger, surpassing Ed Giacomin for sole possession of third place for games played by a goaltender in club history ... Islanders center Casey Cizikas returned to action after missing two straight games with a broken jaw.
12/20 23:22:01 ET