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Rangers find another way to beat Isles

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist stopped 17 shots to earn his fourth shutout of the season on Friday night at MSG. It was also his third career shutout against the Islanders.

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On Thursday night at the Nassau Coliseum, the Rangers beat the Islanders in an extremely wide-open game that featured 11 goals.

Just 24 hours later, on Friday at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers picked up two more important standings points -- only this time they earned them in a defensive duel, edging the Islanders 2-0.

By sweeping the home-and-home set from the Islanders the Rangers moved to 16-11-1 on the season. Their 33 points are good for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and they are now within three points of first-place Pittsburgh.

“I think you need to respect the team you are playing against because it doesn’t matter who you are playing these are important points,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of taking all four points in these two games against the last-place Islanders. “There’s so much parity in the league right now, so it’s a tough night every night. Tonight was no different, and we’re very fortunate to come away with two points.”

Marc Staal scored the eventual game-winning goal on the power play 4:33 into the second period and Brian Boyle added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds left in the game for the Blueshirts, who have now won four of their last five games and nine of 13.

One night after he and Martin Biron combined to allow five goals on Long Island, Henrik Lundqvist turned aside all 17 shots he faced in earning his fourth shutout of the season and 28th of his career on Friday night.

“It felt like we needed a shutout to win it,” said Lundqvist. “I thought we played really solid on defense, and they played well, too. For us it’s about winning. We don’t need to put on a show here, so it’s a great win.”

Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko works to gain position against a backchecking John Tavares in Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson's crease. Roloson played an outstanding game on Friday, but the Rangers got the only goal they needed to beat him.
Friday’s low-scoring, tightly-defended contest was in stark contrast to the wide-open game both teams played on Thursday. The Rangers, in particular, wanted a return to their strong team play in their own zone, using defense to spring their offense. And they accomplished just that, holding the Islanders to only a handful of scoring opportunities.

“I figured it would be this type of game after (Thursday) night,” said Lundqvist. “Coming back from (Thursday) night we wanted to be better defensively. It feels good. Winning back-to-back games feels great. They were two different games, but it’s still four points.”

The Islanders, who seemed to be waiting all night long for that one break to go their way, nearly received it with 7:30 left to play in the third period. Defenseman Jack Hillen fired a slap shot from the left point, and the puck was deflected in front over Lundqvist’s shoulder. Fortunately for the Rangers, the puck hit the crossbar and bounced out of harm’s way.

After a scoreless first period in which the Isles’ Jesse Joensuu racked up 19 penalty minutes in one incident, and the Rangers’ Sean Avery earned 12 in another, the Rangers finally broke through against Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson early in the second. Staal accepted a Derek Stepan pass on the power play and hammered his fourth goal of the season through an Alex Frolov screen in front to put the home team on top 1-0 at the 4:33 mark.

“We had some good movement throughout the whole power play and I think we tired them out a little bit,” said Staal, who logged a team-high 26:02 worth of ice-time. “I just dragged it and tried to get it by them, and it ended up going in.”

Marian Gaborik wasn't able to get another hat trick against the Islanders, but his hard work at all points on the ice was reflective of a Blueshirts team that came into the game with a defense-first approach.
By scoring the first goal of the game the Rangers set themselves up in good position to gain a victory. The Islanders remain winless this season when the opposition scores first, posting a 0-12-2 record in such games so far this season. When scoring first, the Rangers are now 14-4-1.

“We grinded one out again even though they played us tough again,” said Staal. “We ended up getting both wins and, obviously, we are very happy about that.”

After a string of near-misses, including a pair of in-tight chances by Brandon Prust with Roloson down and a Brandon Dubinsky shot that hit the post, the Rangers finally iced the game in the waning seconds when Boyle’s backhander found the empty-net with Roloson on the bench for a sixth attacker.

The goal was Boyle’s 11th of the season. He is now one behind Dubinsky, the team leader with 12. Dubinsky assisted on both Rangers’ goals on Thursday.

The Rangers return to action on Sunday afternoon with a 5 p.m. start at The Garden against the Ottawa Senators. They will follow that game up with a rematch in Ottawa next Thursday night.

“I think we took a step in the right direction in beating (the Islanders) twice,” said Tortorella. “Now we have to get ready for an Ottawa team that we feel we are going to be fighting against all year long to get in (to the playoffs).”
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