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Isles rally with three late goals to top Rangers

by John Kreiser
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Blake Comeau is picking up right where he left off.

Comeau finished last season with 5 goals in the New York Islanders' last four games. He's got 3 in the Isles' first two games of 2010-11, including the game-winner with 3:26 left in regulation on Monday as the Islanders beat the New York Rangers 6-4.

The Comeau the Islanders are seeing now looks nothing like the one who struggled for most of two seasons before hitting his stride at the end of 2009-10.

"I feel I made some big strides in the last half of last year," he said after helping the Islanders improve to 1-0-1 entering a stretch in which they play 12 of 14 on the road. "It's something I want to continue this year.

"I'm not sure what clicked in, but I think I've got a shoot-first mentality right now, where before I was always looking to pass. My confidence is really rolling right now, and I want to keep going."

The Rangers broke a 3-3 tie with 7:14 remaining in regulation when Artem Anisimov took a passout from Marian Gaborik and beat Rick DiPietro through the legs. But Ryan Callahan and Mark Staal took penalties 46 seconds apart, and the Islanders cashed in on both ends.

Former Ranger PA Parenteau, who struggled for most of the game against his old team, got the Isles even when he picked up the rebound of James Wisniewski's shot and banked it off Henrik Lundqvist's arm and into the net at 15:36 during the 5-on-3. Less than a minute later, Comeau found himself all alone in the slot when Josh Bailey whipped a blind pass to him for a quick snap shot past Lundqvist.

DiPietro, who finished with 29 saves, said the difference in Comeau is simple.

"You can't put a price tag on confidence," he said.

Frans Nielsen added an empty-net goal as the Isles beat the Rangers for only the second time in the Blueshirts' last eight visits to the Nassau Coliseum.

Comeau said that history didn't matter on Monday.

"It's the first time we've played them this year," he said. "It's two different teams -- we have a new-look team and they have a lot of new guys. It's doesn't matter what happened last year."

DiPietro had his ups and downs in his second consecutive start after missing most of the last three seasons with hip and knee problems. He stopped Gaborik on a first-period penalty shot, but didn't look good on a couple of Rangers goals, including Anisimov's.

"The last game (a 5-4 shootout loss to Dallas on Saturday), I didn't do my job," he said. "Tonight the guys worked hard and good things happened."

Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi also scored for the Rangers, who take a 1-1-0 record into their home opener Friday against Toronto. The Islanders twice took leads on first-period goals by Comeau and Bailey, then tied the game at 3-3 late in the second on a goal by Matt Moulson. They play their first road game of the season Wednesday in Washington.

"I think for our team, getting three points out of four at home is important," coach Scott Gordon said. "We have 12 of our next 14 on the road, so the fact that we were able to come away with these points -- and for us to be able to do it in the manner that we did it -- obviously, we're thrilled."

The loss was a disappointment for the Rangers, who were less than four minutes away from going home with back-to-back road wins at Buffalo and Long Island.

“I don’t think they really had to work that hard to get those two goals, but it happens,” Lundqvist said of the Islanders’ two late power-play scores.  

Coach John Tortorella obviously wasn't happy with the outcome, but wasn't unhappy with his team's performance.

“It’s something we have to learn from,” Tortorella said. “I saw a lot of good things from within the club in this game, but we come away empty. I’m not unhappy with the club. There are some good things there.”

The Islanders played without No. 1 center John Tavares, who sustained a mild concussion on Saturday in a collision with Dallas' Adam Burish. He was to be evaluated Monday; Gordon said he had no information.

The Rangers lost center Erik Christensen early in the third period with a leg injury.

The teams went without a whistle for the first 5:21, but neither had a good scoring chance until Gaborik broke up a pass at his own blue line on an Isles power play and was tripped by Doug Weight as he broke away at 11:12. Gaborik was awarded a penalty shot, but put his shot into DiPietro's pads.

The Isles then jumped ahead at 12:49 thanks to a miscue by Del Zotto, who turned over the puck to Comeau 10 feet in front of his own net. Lundqvist stopped Comeau's first shot but had no chance on the rebound. It was Comeau's second goal in as many games.

The lead lasted just 68 seconds. With Isles defenseman Mark Eaton serving a delay of game call for batting the puck into the crowd, Dubinsky got his third of the season by beating DiPietro from the slot at 13:57.

Del Zotto, who made the play that led to Dubinsky's goal, was in the wrong place again when the Islanders went back in front at 16:47. He tried to play an airborne puck, but wound up knocking it right onto the stick of Bailey. The third-year center quickly tucked a shot behind Lundqvist for his first of the season.

Lundqvist made two excellent stops on Parenteau early in the second period, and the Rangers made it 2-for-2 on the power play by taking advantage of a sloppy Islanders change that resulted in a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 7:47. The Rangers never let the puck out of the zone before tying the game at 8:28 when Del Zotto's long slapper hit the stick of Isles defenseman Radek Martinek and deflected through DiPietro's pads.

The Islanders had barely killed a slashing penalty to Trent Hunter when the Rangers went in front for the first time. Girardi's straightway wrister from just inside the blue line sailed past two Islanders who screened DiPietro and caught the top corner past the goaltender's catching glove at 13:01, six seconds after Hunter stepped back onto the ice.

The Rangers continued to pressure, but the Isles tied it with 20.9 seconds left during a rare trip into the Rangers' zone. Hunter's shot missed the net to the right of Lundqvist, but kicked straight back to Moulson, who chipped it off Lundqvist's arm and into the net.

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