UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Bryan Berard found his comfort zone, just inside the blue-line with an opposing defensive unit trying to kill off a penalty.
The New York Islanders had a 5-on-3 advantage, and the New York Rangers had to figure out how to cover him and defence partner Marc-Andre Bergeron. They couldn't. Berard broke a second-period tie in his return to Long Island, and Bergeron had a goal and assist Wednesday night to lift the Islanders to a 2-1 victory over the Rangers.
Berard, signed to a one-year deal Tuesday 10 years after winning top NHL rookie honours with the Islanders, gave them a 2-1 edge with 6:04 left in the period. Bergeron, who scored the first goal in the closing seconds of the opening frame, earned the second assist.
This marks the latest in a string of impressive comebacks for Berard, who was limited to 11 games last season with Columbus following back surgery and earned a roster spot after coming to Islanders training camp on a tryout basis.
"A lot of people questioned if I was healthy this summer after two back surgeries and missing a lot of hockey the last two years," the 30-year-old Berard said. "I came in proving I'm healthy. I'm feeling good and I'm only going to get better."
He stayed around the Islanders as the season began and waited for a spot to open. Berard even covered his own expenses after training camp ended. His latest chance came Monday when defenceman Freddy Meyer was claimed off waivers by Phoenix.
It wasn't like his return to the NHL after a severe eye injury in 2000 that forced him to miss a full season, but this one was still important.
"He showed us a lot by sticking in practice, paying his own way with no guarantee," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "He earned himself a contract."
Rick DiPietro made 36 saves for the Islanders, who bounced back from a 2-1 home loss to Washington on Monday to win for the third time in four games.
"You have a bad month, it's tough to climb back," captain Bill Guerin said. "There are no easy games anymore. There is no more expansion teams to pick on. You have to be ready every single night for a battle and they're all important. There are must wins in October."
Fedor Tyutin scored the lone goal for the Rangers, who have dropped two straight following a season-opening victory and began a stretch of three games in four nights. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 shots.
They were 0-for-6 on the power play - one 5-on-3 - and have yet to score a man-advantage goal this season in 15 chances. The Islanders went 1-for-6 and are 4-for-16 overall in the young season.
"This was probably our best game, but that's hockey," Rangers forward Scott Gomez said. "We're getting our (power play) shots, but it's going to take one going off someone's back or something."
With Marek Malik and Blair Betts serving hooking penalties whistled 18 seconds apart, Berard finished a two-man game with Guerin.
Berard, expected to quarterback the Islanders' power play, moved the puck to Guerin on the goal line to the right of Lundqvist. Guerin passed back up to Berard, who fired in a shot from above the left circle with 6:04 left in the middle period.
It was Berard's first goal since Jan. 27, 2006, a span of only 11 games. All three goals and eight points in the game were recorded by defencemen.
Tyutin got the Rangers into a 1-1 tie at 2:09 of the second with a shot from the high slot that eluded DiPietro.
"We had chances - no question," captain Jaromir Jagr said. "The potential here is very high. When we start clicking, we'll be a great team."
The Islanders grabbed a 1-0 lead with 3.5 seconds left in the first period with the teams skating 3-on-3. Mike Sillinger won a faceoff in the right circle, and the puck dribbled back to the hash marks. Bergeron charged in from the right point, and his rocket slap shot beat Lundqvist.
Outside of some roughing penalties, there was none of the fisticuffs that filled a pre-season game between the teams. Islanders enforcer Chris Simon played then but not Wednesday as he still has one game remaining on his 25-game ban for a stick-swinging hit from last season on Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg.
Notes: Islanders forward Jon Sim (knee) missed his second consecutive game and is out indefinitely. ... With Berard, the Islanders dressed seven defencemen. RW Darryl Bootland, who played in the first three games, was scratched. ... Rangers D Paul Mara was scratched for a second straight game.