Richards scored with 4:55 remaining in regulation to break a tie as the Rangers beat the New York Islanders 4-2 for their seventh win in a row.
Josh Bailey's sloppy clearing pass was intercepted by Brandon Dubinsky, giving the Rangers a quick 2-on-1. Dubinsky slid a pass to an onrushing Richards, who blew a slap shot past Evgeni Nabokov to break a 2-2 tie.
"That's why we signed him for nine years," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said with a smile. "A guy like that has the tendency to step up at the right time."
Said Richards, who signed a mega-deal with the Rangers during the summer: "We found a way to get a turnover and score the goal. Dubie made a great pass to me and I was able to walk into it."
Lundqvist also stepped up at the right time, making the last two of his 31 saves on John Tavares in the final 10 seconds before Ryan Callahan shot the puck the length of the ice into an empty net with less than a second remaining.
"It doesn't get old watching him make saves," Callahan said.
The Rangers improved to 10-2-1 in their last 13 games since a 4-2 loss to the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 15. The seven-game winning streak is their longest since they won seven straight from Oct. 3-17, 2009.
Coach John Tortorella said this win was just the latest example of everyone contributing. And, as they have throughout their streak, the Rangers have found ways to get the key goal at the right time.
"(Balance) is a big part of the club," he said. "A lot of people contributed. That's the way it has to be. When you find ways to win, you start becoming a good team."
In contrast, the Islanders continue to find ways to lose. They've lost four in a row and are 1-7-3 in the 11 games since their previous meeting with the Rangers. With 11 points, they are last in the Eastern Conference. They've scored only 31 goals in 15 games this season.
"It was a great game," said Tavares, whose brilliant pass set up Matt Moulson's tying power-play goal 6:58 into the third period. "We didn't get the result we wanted, but the effort is there."
Nabokov was sharp in stopping 26 shots, and the Islanders twice tied the game, on goals by Frans Nielsen late in the first period and Moulson in the third. But they gave the puck away 24 times, with Bailey's the most damaging.
"We had a lot of guys play extremely hard," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "We got good goaltending and our special teams were good. We just didn't get the results we wanted. It's frustrating."
At 10-3-3, the Rangers have been getting results almost every night.
"We've played 16 games, we've got points in 13 of them," Tortorella said. "That helps your confidence. We want to keep trying to ride the wave of momentum, but try to improve."
It was a game in which both teams dominated for long stretches, not necessarily coinciding with their success in putting the puck in the net.
"We had good periods of time and brutal periods of time," Tortorella said.
The Rangers carried the play for most of the first period, but weren't rewarded until 5:17 remained. Sean Avery deflected Brian Boyle's pass into Nabokov's pads, and the rebound came out into the slot – right back to Avery, who pumped a 15-footer into the far side for his second goal of the season.
The Rangers pressed for more, but the Islanders tied it at 17:06. PA Parenteau carried the puck down the right side on a 3-on-2 rush and fed Nielsen. He carried into the right circle before ripping a high wrist shot that Lundqvist got a piece of but couldn't hold. It dropped into the net for Nielsen's fourth of the season.
Steve Eminger gave the Islanders the game's first power play at 2:54 of the second when he cross-checked Matt Martin after Martin laid a big hit on Jeff Woywitka. But the Rangers killed the power play, and Eminger atoned for his penalty at 6:07 when he came down from the right point and was all alone to slam Callahan's feed from the left boards past Nabokov for a 2-1 lead. It was the Rangers' first shot of the period.
The Rangers finally got a power play at 16:32 when Milan Jurcina was called for hooking, then wound up with a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:32 when Marty Reasoner went off for tripping. The Islanders killed off both penalties, only to give the Rangers a third power play when Andrew MacDonald was called for roughing with 46 seconds left in the period.
The Islanders killed off the rest of the power play, then got their fourth of the night when Boyle was called for holding at 2:16. The Rangers killed off that one, but gave the Islanders another chance when Artem Anisimov was called for high-sticking – and this time they paid when Moulson tapped home Tavares’ rocket-hard cross-crease pass at 6:58.
Both teams had chances before Richards broke the tie and get his chance to be the hero – for a night.
"You can't have one line be the big line every night," Lundqvist said. "You have to have different lines and different guys step up every night."
Wrist shot -