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Islanders stay perfect against Rangers

by Brian Compton /

UNIONDALE , N.Y. -- Same teams. Different building. Same result.

New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak continued his dominance against the New York Rangers by making a season-high 40 saves in a 4-1 win at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday.

Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Martin, Ryan Strome and John Tavares scored for the first-place Islanders (32-14-1), who moved seven points ahead of the Rangers (27-14-4) in the Metropolitan Division. They are 3-0-0 against the Rangers this season.

Halak was denied what would have been his second shutout against the Rangers in 14 days when Carl Hagelin scored with 10 seconds left in the third period. It was the Rangers' first goal against Halak in 122:00.

"Obviously it's disappointing, but we've got to win," Halak said of losing his shutout bid. "It's not like it was a 1-0 game and they got the goal, I would have been [ticked] more. It's two points here at home. Hopefully the next time I'll have more luck at the end."

Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves for the Rangers, who saw their three-game winning streak end and were serenaded with chants of "You can't beat us!" from a capacity crowd that made its way to the Coliseum hours after a massive snowstorm hit the region.

"We haven't played well against this team, and it starts with our will to compete, a will to want to make plays and have confidence," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "We're just trying to catch these guys in the standings. They're playing real well and they're pulling ahead here, so we've got to find a way to consistently put a string of games together against the teams that are ahead of us and in our division for sure. It's tough to come off the [All-Star] break like this."

Grabovski opened the scoring with 1:55 remaining in the first period. Grabovski, who hadn't played since Jan. 9 because of a lower-body injury, finished off a gorgeous passing display with Johnny Boychuk and Josh Bailey, redirecting Bailey's feed past Lundqvist for his seventh goal of the season.

With an assist, Bailey extended his point streak to four games (one goal, six assists).

The Islanders outshot the Rangers 17-10 in the opening period.

Martin doubled the Islanders' lead at 4:11 of the second period. Casey Cizikas had an initial chance from the slot, where his wrist shot was denied by Lundqvist. Cal Clutterbuck backhanded the rebound to the right side of the net and Martin quickly put it home to make it 2-0. It was Martin's seventh goal of the season.

"That's a good hockey team," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "There's no surprise there. They've got a lot of skill. They play hard. Their skilled guys play skilled, and then they have that line that really goes out and bangs guys and they score some goals, and they scored a goal tonight. It's a good hockey team."

Strome nearly put the Islanders up by three midway through the second period, when he collected a Tavares rebound in front and quickly backhanded a shot past Lundqvist, but it hit the crossbar cleanly.

Halak made 18 saves in the second period.

"I thought they dominated a lot of the play tonight, to be honest with you," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "I thought we played OK in spurts. I thought the second period, I thought that was a big period for those guys, they grinded us out. Our goalie made some terrific saves to keep us right where we needed to be."

Strome got a bounce to go his way at 6:12 of the third period when he scored his ninth goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Strome tried to send a cross-ice feed to Frans Nielsen, but the puck went off McDonagh's stick and floated past Lundqvist to make it 3-0.

"Obviously it's real fun to get up for these games," Strome said. "I thought we came to play tonight. Three-and-0 against these guys is big; that's a lot of points within our division."

Halak preserved the shutout with about six minutes left in the third period, when he stacked his pads along the right goal post to prevent Derick Brassard from ending the Rangers' drought.

Tavares made it 4-0 with a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 16:47 when he took a pass from Travis Hamonic and put a wrist shot past Lundqvist. It was Tavares' 22nd goal of the season and extended his point streak to four games (three goals, four assists).

Hagelin spoiled the shutout for Halak when he stuffed the puck past him from the right post in the final seconds of a power play. It was Hagelin's ninth goal of the season.

"It looked almost the same," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of the result, comparing it to a 3-0 loss at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago. "They came out real well. I don't know if it was us mishandling it or a combination of that and them forcing us into mistakes, but we made some bad decisions with the puck that really cost us."


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