NEW YORK -- Chris Kreider broke a tie midway through the third period to help the New York Rangers to a 5-3 win against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Michael Grabner, Mats Zuccarello, Brandon Pirri and J.T. Miller scored and Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves for the Rangers, who escaped with a win after blowing a two-goal lead earlier in the third period of the season opener for each team. The Rangers were 0-3-1 against the Islanders last season.
"Just for the team, it was a really good effort," Kreider said. "A couple of lapses in terms of our rush coverage, but you see some of the things that we struggled with last year that we're really honed in and focusing on right from the get-go, which is a great sign. You see us playing fast again.
"Again, 81 more games to play, but you want to play well in Game 1, Game 2, Game 3. Five-man units moving as a group. Suffocating them inside of that house. Eliminating their chances. Picking up pucks and going instead of getting spread out and giving up chances from those high percentage areas. Even when they were getting pucks and pucks didn't bounce for us, you saw guys getting picked up, sticks getting lifted, guys getting cleared out. It's a good sign."
Nick Leddy, Cal Clutterbuck and Brock Nelson scored for the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak, who didn't play after March 8 last season because of a groin injury, made 34 saves. He had defeated Lundqvist head-to-head in his previous eight starts.
Grabner gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 13:41 into the game. With the teams at even strength, Pirri let go a wrist shot from between the circles that Halak denied, but Grabner, a former Islanders forward, was on the doorstep and scored on the rebound.
Zuccarello made it 2-0 at 17:41 of the second period. Defenseman Brady Skjei collected the puck at the right point and fed Zuccarello at the right circle, where his backhand shot went off the skate of Islanders forward Ryan Strome and past Halak.
Video: NYI@NYR: Zuccarello banks a shot past Halak and in
Leddy scored the Islanders' first goal 47 seconds into the third period when he took a pass from Casey Cizikas and beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot from the left circle.
Clutterbuck tied it at 4:04 of the third. With the teams at even strength, Clutterbuck drove to the net and redirected Nikolay Kulemin's shot off the left wing past Lundqvist to make it 2-2.
But Kreider put the Rangers back in front at 9:45, when rookie Pavel Buchnevich sent him on a breakaway with a nice feed from along the right-wing boards near his own blue line. Kreider got behind Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic and beat Halak with a backhand shot.
Pirri put the game out of reach with a power-play goal at 16:11 of the third period. With Islanders captain John Tavares serving a holding penalty, Pirri received a no-look backhand feed from Kreider and one-timed a shot from the right circle past Halak to make it 4-2. Miller scored an empty-net goal with 2:23 remaining.
Nelson got the Islanders back within two when he beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot with 1:35 left.
"We did some good things, but didn't get the result we wanted," Tavares said.
Video: NYI@NYR: Leddy rips a quick shot past Lundqvist
Goal of the game
The Rangers have been seeking more scoring balance throughout their four lines, and Thursday may have been a positive sign for things to come. Grabner, who signed as a free agent in July, and forward Jesper Fast started a rush in the neutral zone that Grabner finished when he put Pirri's rebound past Halak for a 1-0 lead at 13:41 of the first period.
Video: NYI@NYR: Grabner buries a rebound past Halak
Save of the game
With the game scoreless midway through the first period, forward Andrew Ladd was robbed of his first goal with the Islanders when he redirected Hamonic's feed from the right point that Lundqvist managed to swat away with his blocker.
Video: NYI@NYR: Lundqvist robs Ladd's deflection
Highlight of the game
Buchnevich, who made his NHL debut, made a gorgeous stretch pass along the right boards near his own blue line to send Kreider in alone behind Hamonic for what proved to be the game-winning goal at 9:45 of the third period.
Video: NYI@NYR: Kreider beats Halak for go-ahead goal
Unsung moment of the game
With the Islanders pressuring in the offensive zone, Rangers defenseman Nick Holden intercepted Jason Chimera's pass from behind the net into the slot, where Tavares was waiting. Holden promptly got the puck out of harm's way, which started the rush for Grabner's goal in the first period.
They said it
"We've got some tempo for sure and it's clicking and it's a matter of us continuing to make sure we play the way that we need to play in order to utilize those chances, create chances, spend a lot of time in the O-zone. And just as important as it is offensively to utilize our speed, we had great back pressure for a majority of the night that allowed us to play well defensively." -- Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh
"In the big picture, it's only two points. But I think for us, to play the way we did tonight and to do it against a huge rival of ours, I think it's definitely a step in the right direction. There was a lot more, in my mind, a lot more positives tonight, and that's what we're going to try and build off." -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault
"There could be some changes. We got guys hanging around here. We can't go with six defensemen. It's impossible to have six defensemen on your roster. We have to give other guys an opportunity here to find out early and see what we want to do on the back end." -- Islanders coach Jack Capuano
Video: NYI@NYR: Pirri buries Kreider's great feed for a PPG
Need to know
Eleven different players had a point and Lundqvist started his 11th straight season opener for the Rangers. It was Lundqvist's 375th career win, moving him ahead of John Vanbiesbrouck for sole possession of 14th place on the NHL's all-time list. … Two Rangers forwards made their NHL debuts. Buchnevich had an assist in 13:47 and Jimmy Vesey was held without a shot on goal in 13:02 … Islanders rookie Anthony Beauvillier, a first-round pick (No. 28) in 2015, made his NHL debut and had an assist in 10:52.
Islanders: At the Washington Capitals on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CSN-DC, MSG+, NHL.TV)
Rangers: At the St. Louis Blues on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; FS-MW, MSG, NHL.TV)
Video: Three-goal 3rd period leads Rangers past Islanders