NEW YORK (AP) - Jaromir Jagr had no choice but to be honest. He could already see the screaming headlines if he accepted a record-setting goal he knew wasn't his.
"Cheater," Jagr portrayed the headlines.
For a few minutes it appeared that Jagr broke Adam Graves' team record for goals in a season, but in reality he never touched the puck. The goal was changed and given to Martin Straka, who ended up with two Thursday night in the New York Rangers' 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders.
Chants of "M-V-P" rained down throughout Madison Square Garden when it was announced that Jagr had his 53rd goal. Rangers coach Tom Renney even called Jagr back to the bench before the next faceoff as fans saluted him again.
But when the buzzer sounded to end the second period moments later, Jagr skated over to the referee.
"I said I didn't touch it and it wasn't my goal," Jagr said. "Can you imagine if they would give it to me and after the game you guys would ask me the stupid questions over and over and over forever?"
Before the start of the third period, an announcement was made that the goal was Straka's and drew groans and a few boos. Straka's pass into the slot struck the skate of Islanders forward Wyatt Smith - not Jagr - and deflected in behind goalie Rick DiPietro.
"I tried to pass to him, and then they boo me when I score a goal," Straka said. "I told him, 'Keep the goal. I don't want to hear the booing."'
The Rangers started slowly and fell behind in the first period. When Miroslav Satan scored off a bad turnover by Rangers defenseman Tom Poti, Renney called timeout. He gestured with his hands and shook his head, clearly disappointed that his team came out flat with so much on the line.
They recovered in the second.
Jarkko Immonen scored his first NHL goal in the opening minute and Straka snapped the tie in the closing seconds of the frame with his first of the night.
He gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead 8:55 into the third with his 21st of the season and seventh in five games. New York, 5-1-1 this season against the Islanders, leads Philadelphia by five points in the division with six games left. The Flyers have seven to play.
The 23-year-old Immonen was recalled to make his NHL debut earlier Thursday, replacing injured center Steve Rucchin (foot), and got the Rangers even 21 seconds into the period. Straka made it 2-1 with 47.6 seconds left.
Jagr is concerned with winning and not records. What he doesn't want is for his teammates to pass up scoring chances because they are trying to get him the puck.
"If I don't do it, I'm tied with Gravesy," Jagr said. "We can celebrate together and you will have two happy guys."
For the first time since 1997, the Rangers took the ice as a team heading to the playoffs. After locking up a spot Tuesday with a shootout victory over Philadelphia, the Rangers looked a bit uninspired even against their biggest rival.
But the challenge wasn't quite the same as the Islanders played their first meaningless game of the season. They were eliminated from postseason consideration - after three straight appearances - when they lost in Toronto on Wednesday.
Rangers fans reminded them off their plight by chanting "Season's Over!" as the final minutes ticked down.
Islanders coach Brad Shaw, who took his team to the Empire State Building on Thursday morning, was glad Jagr was kept off the scoresheet.
"You wouldn't like to be the team he scores it against just because of the unique rivalry that exists," he said. "Everybody has pride."
Despite having three power-play chances in the first period, two on penalties to DiPietro, the Rangers managed just five shots and handed the Islanders their only goal.
Poti, whose end-to-end rush and cross-ice pass set up Straka's second goal, had his clearing attempt picked off by Satan in the neutral zone. The Islanders' leading scorer beat Kevin Weekes with a long shot at 10:39 for his 31st goal.
Weekes looked sharp in turning aside a few good scoring chances early - including Shawn Bates' breakaway - and finished with 21 saves. He earned his second straight home win, after not winning there since November, in place of injured starter Henrik Lundqvist (hip).
Notes: Weekes has won consecutive games four times this season. Twice he won three in a row. ... Straka has reached 20 goals five times. ... DiPietro (23 saves) was called for four of the Islanders' five penalties. ... Weekes also took a penalty and earned his third career assist on Straka's second goal.