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Rangers pummel Isles at MSG

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- The Rangers showed an entirely new dimension to their game on Wednesday, both for the viewers at Madison Square Garden and the ones in their homes.

Artem Anisimov, Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto scored during a span of 5:18 in the first period as the Rangers boosted their playoff hopes with a 5-0 victory against the New York Islanders. The Blueshirts snapped a three-game losing streak and offered a change of pace from their recent inconsistent performances.

With the win, the Rangers closed to within five points of the idle Boston Bruins for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins, however, have a game in hand.

The game was broadcast locally by MSG Network in 3D, the first time in history a hockey game was aired using that technology. About 2,500 fans packed The Theater at MSG to watch the game along with ex-Rangers greats Mark Messier, Adam Graves and Mike Richter.

Gaborik finished with two goals and an assist during his sixth multi-goal game of the season, but first since a hat trick against the L.A. Kings on Jan. 31. He left for the Winter Olympics with a lacerated leg and returned with an injured groin and has been struggling to find his form.

But against the Islanders and when the Rangers needed him most, he came up big.

"He skated, something that's been a little bit inconsistent after the Olympics, but he was really skating right from the get-go," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Obviously he's an important guy, but a lot of guys contributed tonight here."

The Islanders were overwhelmed from the start and didn't put up much of a fight after the three-goal barrage in the first period. They were outshot 17-3 in the second, but thanks to goaltender Dwayne Roloson's outstanding play, the deficit remained three.

Roloson (39 saves) stopped a pair of clear breakaways by Gaborik and Erik Christensen (two assists) during the second period, but the Islanders couldn't muster an attack to get back into the game.

"You're not going to win hockey games coming out and playing like that," said Roloson, who didn't want to assess blame for the lackluster performance. "It's a big rivalry, and it's actually playoff hopes on the line here. And to come out like that, it's unfortunate."

His counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist, was probably more tested when he applied for his driver's license. He made 27 saves, but the quality of chances wasn't what he usually faces.

For Lundqvist, it was a welcome relief from a season full of games where his margin for error has been Kate Moss-thin.

"When you get a win like this, you start to feel it again," he said. "It has been while since we have had this feeling. The only thing we can do now is continue to battle and fight."

It was the Rangers' most complete performance since a 5-2 victory against the Atlanta Thrashers on March 12. They jumped all over the down-and-out Islanders early and maintained their intensity throughout the game, something that has been a problem for most of this season.

Anismov's ninth goal of the season put the Rangers on top 1-0 early in the first period. A shot from the point by Matt Gilroy hit Jody Shelley in front. The puck fell right to Anisimov, who made no mistake in roofing it over the catching glove of Roloson.

Anismov's goal at 3:12 of the opening period marked the first time the Rangers scored first in a game since that win against the Thrashers. It was also the first time the Rangers held a 1-0 lead at home since March 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a span of six games.

Coincidentally, Anisimov scored the first goal of that game too.

"We've had some struggles with early starts," Tortorella said. "I thought right from the get-go, we played well. I thought the focus was there. We just made simple plays. You could just see they felt good about themselves."

Gaborik made it 2-0 just 2:33 later when he buried the rebound of a Brandon Dubinsky shot for his 38th of the season. Del Zotto's power-play goal at 8:50 pushed the lead to 3-0 during a first period in which the Rangers carried the play and outshot the Islanders 15-10.

"We just weren't ready to play tonight," said Islanders forward Kyle Okposo.

The score remained that way until Gaborik raced in alone on Roloson and roofed a backhander over Roloson's catching glove with 9:16 remaining in the third period.

The Islanders' Trevor Gillies picked up 14 minutes worth of penalties after he jumped Rangers annoyance Sean Avery later in the period. Blake Comeau also earned two minutes in the box for the same infraction on Avery.

It led to Dan Girardi's power-play goal that added insult to insult and was the latest example of Avery walking the line and using his agitating ways to help the Rangers.

"The past couple weeks he has been playing well," Tortorella said of Avery. "He has kept his discipline, but also has been physical, has been around the puck and has drawn a lot of penalties for us."

And now for the mystery the Rangers have been trying to solve all season -- how do they carry it over to Thursday night's game in New Jersey against the Devils and not fall back into their old, inconsistent patterns?

"They should feel good about themselves. They won the game, not winning a game through the back door," Tortorella said. "Just make sure to keep it on the straight line because we play a pretty good team in less than 24 hours."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL

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