The New York Islanders carried the play for most of the first period and hounded the net in the frantic final seconds of the third in search of the tying goal.
In the middle, the New York Rangers took advantage of a third-string goalie and escaped with a 2-1 win Tuesday night.
“It was a thrill a minute,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said sarcastically. “It was a little scrambly.”
Chris Drury and Nigel Dawes scored 1:56 apart in the second period for the Rangers, who rallied for an important road win while sending the rival Islanders to their fifth straight loss.
Trailing 1-0 after a first period in which they were soundly outplayed for the first half, the Rangers bounced back with help from their often-punchless power play. New York got the best of third-string goalie Yann Danis, who arrived from Bridgeport of the AHL earlier Tuesday and was in the net before 6 minutes elapsed because of an injury to starter Joey MacDonald.
He finished with 24 saves, but it wasn’t enough for the Islanders, who lost the first game of a five-game homestand after going 0-4 on a western road trip. New York, the owner of the NHL’s worst record, has only two wins since Nov. 29 (2-15-2).
The Islanders are already without top forwards Doug Weight and Mike Sillinger, defenseman Andy Sutton, and have been missing franchise goalie Rick DiPietro. Others have also returned after being out for significant time this season.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. “I mean, injuries are a part of the game, but this is just crazy.”
If Danis had also been injured, the next option would have been goaltending coach Mike Dunham, who came down from a suite, changed his clothes and stretched.
“Yes, I know what happens next, and he was half-dressed in the weight room,” Guerin said.
Henrik Lundqvist, who posted his first two shutouts of the season in his previous three appearances, made 33 saves for his 22nd win. The Rangers are 2-0-1 on a five-game trip that has stops in Chicago and Pittsburgh this weekend.
Coupled with Philadelphia’s 4-2 home loss to Pittsburgh, the Rangers vaulted over the Flyers into first place in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s hard to compare this one to a road game, but we’re pretty fortunate to be able to play our game with half the crowd cheering for us,” Dawes said of Rangers-friendly Nassau Coliseum. “We’re going to have to continue to play well. These are big points, and going into the (All-Star) break we want to get as many as we can.”
The Rangers turned things around in the second period when they received their first two power plays. One advantage produced the go-ahead goal, and the other immediately preceded the tying score.
Just seconds after Richard Park left the box, defenseman Chris Campoli tried to clear the zone with a backhander. Scott Gomez intercepted it and sent a pass behind him into the slot to Drury, who made it 1-1 with 7:29 left.
The Rangers went back on the power play 6 seconds later when Frans Nielsen, fresh off the injured list after a 23-game absence, was whistled for tripping.
The Islanders raced up ice, and Blake Comeau’s hard shot missed the net and came out the other side. Rangers forward Ryan Callahan rushed the other way while Dawes waited in front of the bench to complete a line change. Dawes cut into the Islanders end on a 2-on-1 with Callahan, took a pass and ripped a drive past Danis at 14:27.
New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist goaltender celebrates as time winds down at the end of the game against the New York Islanders during NHL hockey action Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009 in Uniondale, N.Y. The Rangers won 2-1.
“As soon as I turned up, I saw he was with me and realized we had a 2-on-1,” Callahan said. “I just came down and kind of faked the shot, hoping the D-man committed to me. He did, and I slid it over to Nigel and he put it in.”
It was a different story in the first period when the Islanders took a 1-0 lead and held a 19-8 shots advantage. They took over after falling behind on the shot board 7-1.
Campoli finally broke through with 1:10 remaining in the period on the Islanders’ 16th shot. After Lundqvist made a series of in-close stops, Campoli skated toward a loose puck and fired in a slap shot from the dot in the left circle. The Islanders nearly doubled their lead with 7.8 seconds left, but Jeff Tambellini hit the left post.
“They came hard as they always do against us, especially at home,” Lundqvist said. “We started off really well and then they took over for 10 or 12 minutes.
“I liked the way we calmed down.”
Danis, an emergency recall because of the unsettled injury status of DiPietro, was pressed into action just 5:11 in when MacDonald left after straining his groin. Danis, who stopped all three shots he faced, will be evaluated on Wednesday.
Notes: The Islanders are 1-9-2 against their Atlantic Division rivals, the only win coming against the Rangers on Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden. … Dunham’s last NHL appearance was March 30, 2007, for the Islanders at Buffalo. … The Rangers lead the six-game season series 3-1.