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In Brooklyn debut of rivalry, Islanders defeat Rangers

by Brian Compton

NEW YORK -- Jaroslav Halak made 33 saves and went 3-for-3 in the shootout to lift the New York Islanders to a thrilling 2-1 win against the New York Rangers at Barclays Center on Wednesday.

Halak, who allowed five goals on five shots in his previous shootout on Nov. 27 at the Florida Panthers, denied Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Dan Boyle after Kyle Okposo began the tiebreaker with a goal.

"Obviously the last shootout game was not great for me," Halak said. "But I'm glad we got the win tonight and it was a huge two points. It's always big against the divisional rivals."

John Tavares scored for the Islanders (14-8-4), who have won three in a row and are 4-0-1 in their past five games.

Viktor Stalberg scored and Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves for the Rangers (17-6-3). They are 1-3-1 in their past five.

The Rangers were given a power play 1:12 into overtime when a bad line change by Islanders forward Ryan Strome resulted in a bench minor for too many men. The Islanders, who moved within five points of their biggest rival, killed the power play, and the Rangers finished the night 0-for-3 with the man-advantage.

"We had some real good looks," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We had some good puck movement, good movement by our three forwards that were on the ice and [Boyle]. They got some good saves and some good blocked shots. For us that's probably the game right there, as far as getting two points. We moved it around real well, but we weren't able to score."

After struggling for a stretch during November, the Islanders have killed 11 straight penalties.

"The PK has been great," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "I'm going to go into detail on who jumped. One too many this year. Guys have to be more focused and know what the situation is and we've got to get better at our changes, that's for sure. But the PK not only in overtime but throughout the game, especially the couple [power plays] that they had, I thought we did an excellent job."

Tavares broke a scoreless tie during a two-man advantage at 12:22 of the second period. With Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi and Keith Yandle in the box, Tavares took a pass from Okposo, skated into the slot and put a wrist shot past Lundqvist for his 12th goal of the season.

Halak kept the Rangers off the scoreboard less than four minutes into the second period when he got across the crease to make a right pad save on Derick Brassard's one-timer from between the circles. He preserved the one-goal lead with 3:26 left in the second when he made a nice glove save on Yandle's wrist shot from the left circle.

It was a performance indicative of the healthy competition that has blossomed this season between Halak and Thomas Greiss, who started and won the Islanders' previous two games. Greiss, who signed as a free agent July 1, is 7-3-2 with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.

With the win Wednesday, Halak is 7-4-2 with a 1.93 GAA and a. 926 save percentage.

"I always say you need two goalies for a season," Halak said. "Obviously [Greiss] has been playing well for us, and that's what we need. We need to keep getting points, that's the ultimate goal for everybody, and get to the playoffs. No matter who's in the nets, if we keep getting points, that's all that matters."

Capuano is happy to have the choice of two hot goaltenders.

"I hope they're pushing each other. I mean, that's what you want," Capuano said. "Right out of training camp, you want healthy competition. I think all our guys push one another. We've got two great goalies here. Obviously Jaro's been there for us. But it's good to see those guys push one another.

"Not only that, they're best of friends. That's what makes it an enjoyable situation for our coaching staff and our players."

Stalberg tied it with 1:23 remaining in the second period. With the teams at even strength, he skated from behind the net into the slot and redirected Marc Staal's shot from the left circle past Halak to make it 1-1. It was Stalberg's third goal of the season.

The Rangers have little time to dwell on the loss; they host the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

"It was a game we needed for ourselves," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "A nice, good rivalry in a new building. A lot of hostility, good fans here -- half and half -- and it was a good atmosphere for us to be in to get our game going, have a good solid night. We were doing all the little things right. We didn't get the two points, but I think we're pretty happy with our effort tonight."

This was the Rangers' first visit to the Islanders' new home in Brooklyn. The Islanders had played their home games at Nassau Coliseum from their entry into the NHL in 1972 through last season.

"It was good, it was intense," Tavares said of the atmosphere. "You could tell the pace was high, the intensity was there, the physicality was high. It had the intensity with the crowd and everyone here, so it was good. We just want to feed off that."


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