NEW YORK – Evgeni Nabokov wouldn't divulge which coach was doing the yelling during the first intermission Thursday night, only that it was something that needed to be done.
"We didn't start well, but we got a kick in the butt," Nabokov said. "Then we got going. One of the coaches came in and basically gave it to us."
Whatever was said by that member of the New York Islanders coaching staff worked wonders. The Islanders turned a two-goal deficit into a 4-3 shootout victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on the strength of three second-period goals by Colin McDonald, John Tavares and Brad Boyes in a span of 7:25 and tallies in the tiebreaker by Frans Nielsen and Tavares.
Nabokov was brilliant in making 36 saves to snap the Islanders' five-game losing streak and halt the Rangers' three-game win streak. He also stopped Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash in the shootout to seal the comeback victory.
"Those three goals were huge," Nabokov said of the Islanders' second-period comeback. "You can see it in guys' eyes. You're there and you can see it. They were just fired up and they started playing for each other and did a hell of a job."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said the reason for ripping into his team -- most of it was done by assistant coach Doug Weight, according to Newsday -- was about both poor execution and lack of effort from his players.
"We gave it to them pretty good," Capuano said. "You can't execute if you're not giving the effort, right? It's a little bit of both. I thought we were just standing around watching and [the Rangers] were skating. They were chipping pucks to good areas to sustain their forecheck. They were playing physical. Give them credit. They made us look bad as well.
"But we responded. We came out in the second and third and worked hard. You saw the sacrifice in some guys tonight. That's the way we have to play."
Capuano shuffled his lines a bit to start the second period and put McDonald with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. It paid off immediately, as Cizikas capitalized on a turnover by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and fed McDonald for the quick shot that cut the lead to 2-1 at the 29-second mark.
Cizikas and Martin answered the bell at the other end of the ice during a 5-on-3 power play for the Rangers with Eric Boulton and Nielsen, the Islanders' top penalty-killing forward, in the box.
The Rangers failed to put a puck on Nabokov during the 33-second two-man advantage, as defenseman Travis Hamonic blocked a shot by Nash and defenseman Andrew MacDonald atoned for a gaffe that led to a Rangers goal in the first period by smothering a one-time attempt from Derek Stepan.
Twelve seconds after Nielsen left the penalty box, Tavares tied the game with a 2-on-1 goal, and 40 seconds later, Boyes put the Islanders ahead 3-2.
But for Tavares, it was the first shift of the second period that turned the tide for the Islanders.
"I thought Casey was our best player tonight," Tavares said. "He was fantastic out there. He contributed all over the ice. It's big to have that contribution from those guys. It really gets you going."
The Rangers pushed back before the second period came to a close. It wasn't a textbook power-play goal, but Carl Hagelin's fifth goal of the season and fourth in the last three games pulled the Rangers into a 3-3 tie. An entry pass into the zone deflected on Nabokov, who was a hair late in covering it, allowing Hagelin to sweep it just across the goal line.
This marked the second straight game in which the Rangers allowed a multigoal lead to slip away. They fumbled a 3-0 lead in the third period against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday before winning in a shootout, but weren't as fortunate against the Islanders.
Rangers coach John Tortorella wasn't overly upset after the loss, saying he was happy to get three of four points in that situation. Staal said the collapses the past two games do not worry him.
"I don't think it's a concern," Staal said. "I think it's just a mental focus and making sure that you can't take shifts. You take one or two off and they get the momentum."
As stirring as the second period was, the third period lacked the same wide-open action. Tavares had a glorious chance to put the Islanders ahead with 3:59 left in regulation, but Biron slid across to make the save and smother the rebound.
There were eight shots in overtime, but a chance that missed the net was by far the best for either team. Michael Grabner raced through the neutral zone for a breakaway with 11 seconds remaining, but his backhand attempt fluttered off his stick and wide of the near post, setting the stage for the one-sided shootout.
Nielsen eschewed his usual shootout move of the deke to the backhand – "I played with Marty, so he knows my move," he said – and fired a quick forehand shot through Biron's pads. Tavares said Nielsen stole his move, so he decided to shoot quickly to Biron's stick side for the deciding goal.
"Frans went in before and did the thing I was kind of thinking of doing," Tavares said. "I just tried to pull him off the post a little bit, tried to make him hesitate a little bit and found a hole."
It was not the most memorable of nights for Rangers center Brad Richards. He took just one, 47-second shift in the third period, but was on the ice for two shifts in overtime. He was credited with three giveaways, although he did get the primary assist on Gaborik's goal that gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Tortorella simply said he was "struggling" and Richards agreed.
"I was just trying too hard instead of moving the puck, and that's why I got myself into jams," Richards said. "I'm smarter than that."
The Islanders will try to build on this win when they host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Nabokov feels like he's just repeating himself, but he knows the Islanders need to string together victories to climb into playoff contention before it's too late.
"I know that you guys are sick of listening to that, but to us, two points is two points," Nabokov said. "We need to get out of our funk and build on something. If we come out next game and we're flat again, it doesn't count. You have to build. If you can come out and win the next game, you can say, ‘Yes, this was a big one.' We have to play for 60 minutes all the time. "
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