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Doug Weight makes point, Islanders get crucial win

New York battles back, inches closer to playoff spot with victory at Rangers

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Doug Weight had to undo his top button and loosen his tie.

Weight, the New York Islanders coach, was getting too tight, too agitated and too animated when talking to his team during the first and second intermissions at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

"I had to undo my button because I was going to blow up," Weight said.

This game was too big for the Islanders to blow it by turning over the puck, by not getting it in deep when they had the chance. It was too big for the Islanders to lose.

They didn't. They got the message, got two goals on the power play from Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd in the third period, and defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 to move one point closer to a Stanley Cup Playoff position.

The Islanders, who were three points out before their victory, are two points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They have a game in hand on Boston too. It'll grow to two games when the Bruins play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

The Islanders play at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday before returning home to play the Bruins at Barclays Center on Saturday, when it's possible they will have a chance to move past Boston and into a playoff spot.

"We were persistent on turning pucks over early, which I just don't get it," Weight said. "We have to get pucks in. But we played with good pace. We played with big-time effort. [Thomas Greiss] was great in net. We got some big-time goals. So it was a huge win."

It looked like it was going to be a potential hope-crushing loss for 41 minutes.

Video: NYI@NYR: Ladd finishes Lee's feed in front for PPG

The Islanders trailed 2-1 entering the third period and had to go on the penalty kill 59 seconds into the period because Brock Nelson tripped Brendan Smith. Their best player, John Tavares, was having his worst game with three minor penalties, three more than he had points. 

Tavares was in the box when Mats Zuccarello scored a power-play goal at 2:46 of the second period to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. 

"I didn't have my best today," Tavares said, understating the obvious. 

He found it. His teammates followed.

The Islanders killed Nelson's penalty. He might have scored from the slot 13 seconds after coming out of the box had he not whiffed on a one-timer. Nick Leddy hit the crossbar nine seconds later. Momentum was shifting. The Islanders were feeling it.

Rangers center Kevin Hayes went to the box for slashing Nelson at 3:31, and Kulemin scored on a double-skate deflection 90 seconds into the power play.

Video: NYI@NYR: Lee buries a rebound past Raanta

The Islanders went back on the power play at 11:29, when Michael Grabner was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. Tavares came off the left-wing wall, and his shot got blocked. The puck went to Anders Lee on the left side of the net. He found Ladd alone in front. Ladd scored his 20th goal, and the biggest goal of the Islanders season to date, at 12:38.

"Our leaders came back at the end," Weight said.

And in the end, this looks like one of the Islanders' best team wins of the season. 

Young players like forwards Anthony Beauvillier (two assists) and Joshua Ho-Sang (one assist), and defensemen Scott Mayfield (three blocked shots, three hits) and Adam Pelech (two takeaways) carried them early when the veterans were struggling. 

Beauvillier and Ho-Sang each had an assist on Kulemin's goal, and then got rewarded by playing a few shifts with Tavares, who was getting better after a brutal first 40 minutes. 

"I believe they're ready to be key contributors," Weight said.

Eventually, the Islanders stopped turning over the puck and started getting it in deep. The veterans came through. And Greiss had another excellent night, making 34 saves.

"We just stuck with it and found a way," Tavares said. "That's what matters most." 

Video: NYI@NYR: Kulemin scores PPG on double deflection

The Islanders can't ignore what ailed them, though. They defeated the Rangers and stayed within striking distance of a playoff spot, but they made it unnecessarily hard on themselves. 

For example, how is it that a supposedly desperate team "fell asleep," according to Weight, in the first two periods?

"It's a fair question," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "Our third periods, go back to [a 3-2 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday], we didn't play well in the first two at all, but in the third we turned it on and fell short in overtime. Tonight, it was kind of the same idea. It's not the predicament you want to leave yourself in every time having to come back in the third because at this time of the year it's hard to do against anybody."

The Islanders did it to earn a point against the Blue Jackets on Saturday. They did it to earn two against the Rangers on Wednesday.

They're making their well-dressed and well-spoken coach look haggard and struggle for words to describe the turnovers and lackadaisical play, but they're getting points and staying in the race.

"We're a team that's got to get to the playoffs," Weight said. "It doesn't mean you're destined to win. It doesn't mean anything like that. I just think we'll be a [darn] tough out if we get there. I want to get there."

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