Any game between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders brings passion and intensity. A late-season matchup with both teams chasing a playoff berth promises to provide that and more.
Henrik Lundqvist and the red-hot Rangers look to match a season high with their fifth straight victory when they face their biggest rivals at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday.
The Rangers (38-28-9) have surged into seventh place in the Eastern Conference behind the outstanding play of Lundqvist. New York has outscored opponents 15-2 during regulation of a four-game win streak and is 9-1-3 since a three-game skid from Feb. 20-24.
With a one-point lead over Carolina and Montreal and two in front of the Islanders (36-27-11), the seventh-place Rangers could move past Tampa Bay into sixth in the East with a victory in this game.
Lundqvist was brilliant again Saturday, stopping 40 shots in regulation and overtime en route to a 2-1 shootout victory at Boston. Defenseman Thomas Pock scored with 1:40 left in the third period and Michael Nylander and Jaromir Jagr converted in the shootout for the Rangers, who have played one more game than the Islanders.
"We struggled the first two periods, but Henrik kept us in the game," Pock said. "He's been doing it every night. The way he's been playing is why the defense and forwards can play the way we are."
Lundqvist has started the last 10 games for the Rangers, going 7-1-2 with a sparkling .953 save percentage. He's also played a huge role in New York's excellent penalty killing lately - the Rangers have not allowed a goal while short-handed in four straight games and have given up only five power-play goals in their last 72 opportunities.
The Rangers held an opponent without a first-period goal Saturday for the ninth consecutive game. They had scored the game's opening goal in seven straight contests before Boston took a 1-0 lead.
A late power-play goal lifted the Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Islanders the last time these teams met on March 8. That game, however, was more memorable for Chris Simon's two-handed stick attack on Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg that resulted in Simon receiving an NHL-record, 25-game suspension.
The Islanders have gone 2-3-1 since losing the rugged Simon, with both wins coming in their last two games.
Andy Hilbert's goal with 4:40 remaining lifted the Islanders to a 4-3 victory Saturday at Philadelphia.
"That was probably Andy's biggest goal and the biggest goal for us this year so far," Isles coach Ted Nolan said.
Rick DiPietro made 18 saves and improved to 2-0-1 since returning to the lineup after missing two games with a head injury. The win was his 32nd this season, tying Billy Smith (1981-82) and Chris Osgood (2001-02) for the franchise record.
DiPietro made a team-record 56 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 5. He is 4-1-1 with a 2.15 GAA against them this season.
The Islanders were without forwards Miroslav Satan and Richard Zednik on Saturday due to personal reasons.
"We're a family-oriented team," Nolan said on the Islanders' official Web site. "Both Satan and Zednik had family issues to tend to and our thoughts are with them."
The Islanders scored 18 goals while winning the first four meetings this season, but the Rangers have taken the last two by 2-1 scores. The Rangers are 7-2-0 in their last nine visits to Long Island.