"It seems when we play this team there's a lot more concentration," Sather said after the Rangers' 3-2 victory Saturday. "We've been trying all year to get these guys to concentrate on every game like it's an Islander game."
Eric Lindros' goal and assist sparked a three-goal in a 1:38 span in the first period, and then the Rangers hung on.
"I liked the way we played after they got to 3-2," Sather said.
Chris Simon and Martin Rucinsky also scored for the Rangers, who rebounded from two poor losses this week against Calgary and Carolina to stretch their unbeaten streak against the Islanders to 5-0-2.
The Rangers, 8-1-1 at Nassau Coliseum since Dec. 23, 1999, moved within two points of the Islanders as they try to end a six-year playoff drought.
Justin Papineau and Mattias Weinhandl scored second-period goals for the Islanders, who have dropped two of three home games after winning seven straight there.
Lindros started the scoring 6:03 in when he deflected Petr Nedved's shot, with his back to the goal, past Garth Snow. Lindros got the next play going, too, when he made a cross-ice pass to Matthew Barnaby in the right circle. Barnaby spotted Simon alone in front for a redirection goal that made it 2-0 at 7:24.
Sather called Lindros the Rangers' best player the past month. He's had four goals and 12 assists the past 16 games.
"I've felt good all year," Lindros said.
Rucinsky made it 3-2 just 17 seconds after Simon's goal to chase Snow.
"I thought we played the first minute good, and the next 19, we played intimidated -- more mentally than physically," Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. "We played well for 20 minutes -- the second period."
Snow made only four saves on seven shots before being replaced by Rick DiPietro, who played for the second straight game. DiPietro made 21 saves Thursday against Edmonton in his first victory since Dec. 6.
"I don't think we came out as a team in the first period," Snow said. "They just outplayed us. Individually, we were not where we should be."
Before Thursday, Snow played 15 straight games. DiPietro, who has played five NHL games since early December, was perfect on 26 shots and even blocked two with his mask.
Mike Dunham made 27 saves for the Rangers, including stops to deny Roman Hamrlik in the first with his stick, and Trent Hunter in the third with his skate.
After weathering one of the Rangers' strongest periods this season, the Islanders got back in it in the second.
Papineau made it 3-1 at 9:55 with his third goal in two games. Oleg Kvasha skated behind the net and found Papineau alone in front for the score. Defenseman Boris Mironov was unable to cover after he was hobbled seconds earlier by a puck.
The Islanders got within 3-2 when they scored their third power-play goal in three games after going three without one. Weinhandl put his own rebound between Dunham's pads at 12:36, assisted by Kvasha.
"We played well enough with the lead to keep it," Rangers forward Bobby Holik said. "Dunny made saves that were necessary to be made and we won. We were far from being perfect."
The Islanders pressed for the tying goal late, and when DiPietro was pulled for an extra skater he placed his stick down horizontally across the crease. The Rangers were irate but were unaware if that was against the rules, as was DiPietro.
"It seems like a good play," DiPietro said. "Next time it might be a yard sale, maybe the helmet and the gloves."
|PPG - Eric Lindros (8) ASST: Petr Nedved (11), Tom Poti (6)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Chris Simon (7) ASST: Matthew Barnaby (13), Eric Lindros (18)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Martin Rucinsky (11) ASST: Bobby Holik (17), Darius Kasparaitis (8)|
3 - 0 NYR
|Justin Papineau (4) ASST: Oleg Kvasha (16), Mattias Weinhandl (1)|
3 - 1 NYR
|PPG - Mattias Weinhandl (3) ASST: Oleg Kvasha (17)|
3 - 2 NYR
|Matthew Barnaby Elbowing|
|Roman Hamrlik Interference|
|Jason Blake Holding|
|Brian Leetch Hi-sticking|
|Oleg Kvasha Holding|
|Brian Leetch Hooking - Obstruction|
|Chris Simon Roughing|
|Janne Niinimaa Tripping|