NEW YORK -- A wild first period featuring seven goals. A game-tying goal with less than 10 minutes remaining. A game-winning goal with 88 seconds left.
Yeah, a New York-New York first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be just fine.
It's on pace to happen, but who would have home-ice advantage? The New York Islanders put even more doubt into that Sunday with a 6-4 win at Madison Square Garden.
Right wing Cal Clutterbuck's goal off an offensive-zone faceoff win by center Casey Cizikas with 1:28 remaining in the third period was the difference. Frans Nielsen tacked on an empty-net goal for the Islanders, who are 3-0-0 against the Rangers this season and trail them by three points for second in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders have three games in hand.
Video: NYI@NYR: Brassard's power-play goal ties game
The Islanders (36-20-7) and Rangers (38-22-6) will play one more time in the regular season, April 7 at the Garden. It could be a preview of an Eastern Conference First Round series, but that's not on the minds of either team now.
"We're starting to figure a little bit out as a team," Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said. "We've matured as a group over the last couple of years and hopefully we can kick it [up] another gear and have a good last 19 games."
The Islanders have a chance to catch the Rangers because they went 6-1-0 on a season-high seven-game road trip, outscoring the opposition 21-14. They also defeated the New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets. The lone loss on the trip was to the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 28.
"Did we play our best hockey? I don't think so," Clutterbuck said. "But at the end of the day, 12 points out of 14 so we can't really argue with that."
Video: NYI@NYR: Boychuk nets his second goal of 1st period
Rangers backup goalie Antti Raanta was facing the pressure Sunday because Henrik Lundqvist was out for a second straight game with neck spasms. He skated Sunday morning and is considered day-to-day.
The Rangers also played without defenseman Marc Staal because of back spasms. They were down to five defensemen at 13:27 of the first period, when Dylan McIlrath left with a leg injury following a hit from Clutterbuck. He did not return.
However, they battled back from an early 3-0 deficit, got it to within 4-3 after the first period and tied the game at 4-4 on center Derick Brassard's power-play goal at 11:39 of the third period.
But Derek Stepan lost the faceoff clean to Cizikas and Clutterbuck pounded a hard and high one-timer over Raanta's right shoulder for the winner. It was a smaller piece of a bigger problem in coach Alain Vigneault's eyes.
Video: NYI@NYR: Okposo increases the lead with a PPG
"We had one line going," Vigneault said.
Vigneault was referring to Eric Staal's line, with Oscar Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg. Staal had a goal and an assist in the first period and Lindberg also scored. Tanner Glass had the Rangers' other goal in the first period.
But it all came after the Islanders built a 3-0 lead 4:45 into the game on goals by Johnny Boychuk, Brock Nelson and Okposo. They scored them within a span of 1:55. The Islanders had an 8-0 edge in shots on goal too.
"We dominated the first period," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "They didn't have a sniff."
That's true for the first 10-plus minutes, but the Rangers, who got their first shot at 10:10, responded with goals from Lindberg and Glass separated by 38 seconds to make it 3-2 at 11:54.
Video: NYI@NYR: Staal nets his first goal as a Ranger
Boychuk scored again at 13:14 to give the Islanders a 4-2 lead, but Staal answered 31 seconds later with his first goal as a Ranger.
"It was just like, 'What the heck is going on,' you know what I mean?" Boychuk said. "I don't mind because I was just throwing pucks at the net and they were going in. It was just a weird, weird period."
The second was calm and the third was dramatic, leading to an exciting finish and tantalizing thoughts of what could come in the playoffs. Too bad they appropriately think it's too early to think about it.
"We know the situation," Okposo said. "Obviously we're fighting for home-ice, we're fighting for a playoff spot. Nothing is secure."
Video: Boychuk nets two in wild game