Islanders earn two crucial points with win vs. Rangers

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[March 23, 2017]  NEW YORK -- Leading by a goal with less than 10 seconds remaining, the New York Islanders saw a sewn-up victory transforming into a loss right before their eyes.

Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy -- during a power play -- slammed the puck off the shin pads of New York Rangers forward Michael Grabner, who sprang himself for a potential game-tying breakaway with Leddy in pursuit.

"It's two of the fastest guys in the league with Grabner and Leddy," Islanders forward Anders Lee said. "I wasn't worried about Leds catching him."

Leddy got back to break up the play and seal the Islanders' 3-2 comeback win against the Rangers at Madison Square on Wednesday that moved them within two points of the final playoff spot in the East with 10 games to play.

The Islanders (34-26-12) trail the Boston Bruins for that spot and have one game in hand. Since firing coach Jack Capuano on Jan. 17, the Islanders are 17-9-4 with interim coach and assistant general manager Doug Weight behind the bench.

The Rangers (45-25-4) took a 2-1 lead to the third period but were victimized by power-play goals from Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, leading to their seventh straight loss (0-5-2) at MSG.

"We're focused on playing good hockey, trying to win games, whether they are at home or on the road," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "We obviously haven't found success here, so we've got to keep working."

The Islanders kept working after falling behind 1-0 in the second period on a Mats Zuccarello power-play goal, as Lee scored less than a minute later to even the score at 1. But Rick Nash's 20th goal of the season -- a terrific individual effort that included the undressing of defenseman Thomas Hickey -- sent the Rangers to the intermission ahead 2-1.

The Rangers were 25-3-0 when leading after two periods before the Islanders rallied to win Wednesday.

"It was just playing smarter hockey," Ladd said of the third period. "That's been our Achilles' heel lately. It's just feeding the other team's transition and shooting ourselves in the foot. I thought we did a better job of that in the third period."

Goaltender Thomas Greiss stopped all 11 shots he faced in the third period but was even better stopping 23 of 25 over the first two periods when the Islanders were turning the puck over more frequently in their own end and the neutral zone.

"We were persistent on turning pucks over early, and I just don't get it," Weight said. "We have to get pucks in. We started to do that has the game went on. Tommy was great in nets and we got some big goals. So it was a huge win."

The Rangers remain six points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets with eight games to play. The loss to the Islanders was a missed opportunity, as the Blue Jackets lost 5-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, but the loss was also frustrating from another perspective.

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Rangers right wing Rick Nash (61) scores a goal past New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Kulemin's goal was the result of a double deflection after a pass from Joshua Ho-Sang banked off the skate of Anthony Beauvillier -- who had two assists -- then the skate of Kulemin. Ladd scored with 7:22 remaining after Grabner accidentally chipped a bouncing puck out of play from inside his own zone, resulting in a delay of game of penalty.

"Two bounces and the game is 3-2," said Rangers goaltender Antti Raanta, who stopped 24 shots. "We still had lots of chances but we just couldn't get the tying goal. I think it was the first time we played a real good 60 minutes at home in a long time. I think we were the better team today, but when luck is not on your side, you just have to work extra hard to get that win."

The Islanders go to Pittsburgh on Friday to face the Penguins before a huge home game Saturday against the Bruins.

"There's still 10 games to go and you play 82 for a reason," said Islanders captain John Tavares, who was called for three minor penalties. "We had high expectations going into the season and that hasn't changed. We just want to keep working and give ourselves a chance to compete for the Cup."

NOTES: Islanders RW Ryan Strome left the game during the second with an upper-body injury and did not return. Coach Doug Weight said he doesn't expect Strome to play the next two game and perhaps longer. ... Islanders D Johnny Boychuk, out since March 3 with a lower-body injury, is close to returning, Weight said. ... Islanders Dennis Seidenberg (fatigue) did not play. ... Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist, who missed his seventh straight game with a hip injury, is expected to play in two of the Rangers' three games on an upcoming road trip that begins Saturday in Los Angeles. ... Rangers RW Pavel Buchnevich (undisclosed) did not play. He was replaced by LW Tanner Glass.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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