UNIONDALE, N.Y. --John Tavares made his first Islanders-Rangers game one to remember.
The No. 1 pick in the 2009 Entry Draft scored the game-clinching goal with 5:06 remaining and was on the ice for all three Islanders goals Wednesday night as the Isles beat the Rangers 3-1 for their first regulation win of the season.
"It's not hard to get up for a game like that," Tavares said. "It's a unique rivalry, one of the best in sports. We played a great game -- the full 60 (minutes) for us."
After Kyle Okposo's power-play goal late in the second period broke a 1-1 tie, Tavares gave the Islanders some insurance when he took the puck away from defenseman Michal Rozsival in the Rangers' zone and tried to pass to Doug Weight. Instead, the puck came back to him and his shot/pass from the lower left circle beat Henrik Lundqvist.
"I was trying to block the puck and it was blocked, so I tried again," Tavares said after scoring his fourth goal of the season. "We just tried to get pucks to the net."
Tavares hadn't scored since Oct. 16 at Buffalo, and he was robbed in the second period when Lundqvist stoned him on a wide-open 10-footer from the slot only seconds before Okposo's go-ahead goal.
"I had a few chances last game but things weren't going my way," he said. "I finally got one that was a little bit ugly. Sometimes you need those. I had a few more good chances early on, and I kept working at it -- moving my feet and getting pucks to the net. I got lucky and got the insurance one tonight."
Tavares was on the ice when Okposo broke a 1-1 tie when he buried a rebound with 1:46 left in the middle period after Lundqvist made a spectacular save on defenseman Jack Hillen, who was all alone in the slot after a perfect pass from Weight. Lundqvist had no chance as Okposo slammed the puck into the open right side of the net.
Weight, the Islanders' captain, was back in the lineup after missing three games with the H1N1 flu.
Dwayne Roloson made 34 saves -- and benefitted from four shots that hit posts or crossbars -- as the Islanders (2-4-5) won for the first time in regulation and ended a five-game losing streak to the Rangers on Long Island with their most complete game of the season.
"That was KISS hockey -- keep it simple, stupid," Roloson said. "Block shots, penalty kill, clog the lanes."
The Islanders have blown four third-period leads (though they won one of those games in a shootout), but Roloson said he and his teammates never doubted themselves.
"I don't think anyone in this locker room was lacking for confidence," he said.
The Rangers are 8-4-1 -- but just 1-3-1 after a seven-game winning streak. They were without their top scorer, Marian Gaborik, who sustained a lower-body injury in Monday's 5-2 win over Phoenix. Gaborik had 10 goals and 18 points in the Rangers' first 12 games. Gaborik's replacement, P.A. Parenteau, scored the Rangers' first goal and had a couple of other scoring chances.
"Gabby is a very important part of our hockey club," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "But every team goes through injuries."
Tortorella said the lack of physical play, not the lack of their big gun, made the difference.
"I thought they wanted to play harder than us tonight," he said. "I think we're too easy a team to play against in these types of games. They played hard. They played through the body, and we didn't answer as far as hitting back, other than for a few shifts in the second period.
"We simply have to be a harder team to play against."
"It's not hard to get up for a game like that. It's a unique rivalry, one of the best in sports. We played a great game -- the full 60 (minutes) for us."
-- John Tavares
The Islanders, who've struggled to score all season, needed less than a minute to get on the board. Hillen's breakout pass caught Matt Moulson as he split the defense, and Moulson raced in alone before snapping a wrister from between the circles past Lundqvist just 55 seconds into the game. It was Moulson's team-high sixth goal of the season.
The Isles controlled the play for the next several minutes, but the Rangers got even. Parenteau, the top goal-scorer in the AHL before his recall, picked up a loose puck after the Islanders failed to clear their zone, skated from right to left into the slot and whipped a high backhander past Roloson at 8:30, triggering an eruption from the numerous Rangers fans in the Coliseum crowd of 15,213.
The Islanders got the game's first power play when Brandon Dubinsky was called for tripping Sean Bergenheim at 13:54. But despite getting a couple of good chances, the Isles were unable to score -- extending their power-play drought against the Rangers to 0-for-29.
The Rangers nearly went ahead in the final seconds on a play similar to Parenteau's goal. Defenseman Marc Staal jumped into the play and took a backhander from the slot that beat Roloson cleanly but rang off the post.
The Rangers had two great chances near the seven-minute mark of the second period. Ryan Callahan's tip went just wide at Roloson's left post -- and seconds later, Enver Lisin rattled the crossbar with a wrister from the slot.
Sean Avery took a penalty for hooking Brendan Witt at 16:54, and the Islanders finally broke their long power-play drought 80 seconds later. Weight set up Hillen for a point-blank shot in the slot that Lundqvist stopped, but he had no chance when Okposo swooped in and hammered the rebound into the open right side to put the Islanders in front to stay at 18:14.
"We took an offensive-zone penalty and it cost us a power-play goal," Tortorella said.