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Rangers rally past Isles to keep playoff hopes alive

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE , N.Y. -- Just as several other teams have learned this season, the New York Rangers found out Tuesday night that a two-goal lead on Long Island really doesn't mean much.

Despite trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes, the Blueshirts rallied for three goals in the second period and added another in the third as they stayed very much alive in the playoff hunt with a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Blueshirts (34-32-10), who were playing without Ryan Callahan and Sean Avery, remained four points behind the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston earned a 1-0 overtime victory in New Jersey on Tuesday night. The Rangers also trail Atlanta, a 3-2 winner at Toronto, by two points -- though New York has a game in hand.

"The two-goal lead is one of the worst leads in hockey," said Rangers forward Marian Gaborik, who scored his 40th goal in the win. "We were talking that we have to shoot more if we want to come back, and we did. We came out really strong (in the second period) and we were quicker than them."

It marked the eighth time this season the Isles have lost a game after blowing a lead of two goals or more. Despite a two-goal performance from Blake Comeau, they fell to 31-35-10 with six games remaining in their season.

"That's the way we've played all year," Isles goalie Dwayne Roloson said. "We play one great period, and then we sit back. I just don't know why we don't play a 60- or 65-minute game."

Henrik Lundqvist survived a rocky first period and made 25 saves for the Rangers, while Vinny Prospal andOlli Jokinen each had a goal and an assist.

"We definitely needed the two points tonight," Lundqvist said. "We didn't get any help tonight. It's a huge win for us."

Mark Streit gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead just 2:09 into the game with a power-play goal. After the Rangers were penalized for having too many men on the ice, Streit took a cross-ice feed from Frans Nielsen and one-timed it past Lundqvist for his 11th goal of the season.

The woes for Lundqvist continued at 12:09, when Comeau's wrister from the left circle went off his left shoulder before trickling over the goal line. Comeau was credited with his 13th goal of the season.

"I was shocked that it went in," Lundqvist said. "I thought I had it under control. It was important for me to come out strong in the second. We really stepped it up."

The Isles took the two-goal lead into the first intermission as they outshot the Rangers 9-4 in the opening 20 minutes, helping erase the memories from that horrid showing they put forth at Madison Square Garden -- at least temporarily -- six nights earlier in a 5-0 loss.

"The game couldn't have started any better for us," said Isles rookie John Tavares, who assisted on Streit's goal.

But the Rangers grabbed some momentum early in the second, as Prospal cut the deficit in half just 74 seconds into the period when he took a feed from Michael Del Zotto and fired a wicked wrist shot from the left circle that beat Roloson -- who also fought the puck for much of the night -- high and to the far side. It was Prospal's 18th goal of the season.

"The most important thing was getting the first goal before they got a third," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "That put us back in the game. The key thing was scoring that first goal. Vinny Prospal played one of his better games tonight."

After killing off a 59-second, two-man advantage, the Blueshirts tied the game at 12:57, when Jokinen strippedKyle Okposo of the puck in the slot and ripped a shot from between the circles past a surprised Roloson to make it 2-2.

"That was important," Tortorella said of the penalty kill. "We took some stupid penalties, but we got away with it. All in all, from the second period on I thought we played much better."

Gaborik became the 17th player in Rangers history to score 40 goals when he put his team ahead at 17:15, as he took a feed from behind the net by Aaron Voros and slipped it past Roloson to make it 3-2. The Blueshirts outshot the Isles 15-6 in the second.

"It's definitely nice … it's a nice round number," said Gaborik, who reached the 40-goal mark for the second time in his career. "Every time you score a goal, you feel good. It was a big goal for us. This game was huge. We just have to keep fighting."

Things continued to go the Rangers' way in the third, as Marc Staal made it a two-goal game at 5:05. With the teams at even strength, Staal took a nice cross-ice feed from Prospal and fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Roloson to make it 4-2. It was Staal's sixth goal of the season.

"Right now, we need points as much as possible," Staal said. "If I can help out in that way, I'm going to do that."

Comeau got the Isles back to within one when Sean Bergenheim fed him a one-timer that found its way past Lundqvist with 6:33 remaining. Mark Flood picked up his first NHL point with an assist on the play.

"I think we did some stuff right in the second, but it seems like the mistakes that we made cost us and they put it in the back of the net," Comeau said.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter at: @BComptonNHL

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