John Tavares scored the shootout winner, as the New York Islanders earned a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Tavares' game decider - a quick deke and backhander off the back bar - let the Islanders exhale on Thursday night, going home with two points after coughing up a 3-1 lead in the third period. The win improved the Islanders to 3-3-1 on the season, while handing the Rangers (1-5-2 their fifth straight loss (0-3-2).
"The second half of the game wasn't the way we wanted to draw it up, but we found a way at the end of the day in the shootout," Tavares said. "We'll take the two points and get ready for Saturday."
Video: NYI@NYR: Tavares goes to his backhand for SO tally
It was a tale of two games for the Islanders, who had a lot to like from the first half of the rivalry contest. The power play broke through for its first goal of the season, with Anders Lee stuffing in a Ryan Pulock changeup 2:40 into the first, Brock Nelson scored his team-leading fourth of the season and Mathew Barzal scored his first-career goal.
Video: NYI@NYR: Barzal beats Lundqvist for first NHL goal
Barzal's first was a beauty and perfectly suited to the fast pace of the game, as he used his speed to beat Rick Nash down the wall before shooting a puck through Henrik Lundqvist from a sharp angle. The Islanders talented rookie was flying after the goal and nearly scored twice more before the end of the second period.
Video: NYI@NYR: Lee knocks home Pulock's rebound for PPG
The second half saw the Rangers claw their way back into the game, with Mats Zuccarello finishing a 3-on-1, the result of an Islanders turnover at their own blue line. The Isles caught a break when Brendan Smith's would-be tying goal was called back due to a kicking motion, through Kevin Hayes evened the score later with a sneaky backhander that beat Jaroslav Halak (38 saves) short side with 5:54 to play in the third.
Josh Bailey nearly ended the game twice in the final five seconds of regulation, but his breakaway and then circle-back rebound were both stopped by Henrik Lundqvist (35 saves). Neither team could convert in a fast and loose overtime.
Video: NYI@NYR: Nelson whips huge wrister past Lundqvist
Jordan Eberle and Tavares scored in the shootout, as did the Rangers' Mats Zuccarello.
"We didn't panic, we stayed with it and we had chances at the end of the game and OT, but it didn't go in," Halak said. "I'm happy for the shootout win and we just need to build on it."
Halak put another Ranger win on his Islanders resume, improving to 8-3-0 against the blue shirts as an Islander. Halak was solid throughout the night, pulling a Jimmy Vesey shot off the goal line in the first period, stopping a Rick Nash breakaway in the second and denying both Mike Zibanejad and David Desharnais in the shootout.
Video: NYI@NYR: Halak shuts down Buchnevich and Staal
"It was a good win," Head Coach Doug Weight said. "You can't always blame your hockey club for hanging on for a win. It's tough. It was a big win."
BARZAL SCORES FIRST NHL GOAL
Mathew Barzal scored his first-career NHL goal on Thursday night - and did so in style.
The Islanders rookie blew by Nash down the wall before shooting a puck through Henrik Lundqvist from a sharp angle. Barzal said he'd imagined all sorts of scenarios for his first goal and while the goal looked different from what he'd pictured, it felt better.
"It was great, it was kind of a big monkey [on my back] there," Barzal said. "It was a cool moment to get it in and to see the support from the guys after I scored was pretty cool too."
The goal gave Barzal some jump and the 20-year-old had two more quality chances in the period, but had to settle for one, which he plans to add to his collection of trophies and hockey memorabilia back home. Regardless, the Islanders were ecstatic for the Barzal after the game.
"You're first goal is always special so it's nice to see him get it," Tavares said. "It's a moment he's dreamt about for his whole life, we all do, so great to see him get it."
Video: Mathew Barzal joins NHL Tonight after 4-3 victory
The Islanders return home on Saturday nightto face the San Jose Sharks. The Islanders beat the Sharks 3-1 last Saturday in San Jose. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.