No. 1 Rangers return to winning ways
Gaborik makes it a thriller with late overtime goal to beat Isles 4-3 at home
Marian Gaborik's 33rd goal of the season---with just 5.8 seconds remaining in overtime---lifted the Rangers to a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Islanders Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, as the Blueshirts opened up a season-high seven game homestand by snapping their season-worst three-game losing skid.
With the win the Rangers---now with 93 points---remain four points ahead of the surging Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference standings. Pittsburgh also won on Sunday, besting the Boston Bruins 5-2.
Gaborik's goal was the third scored by the Rangers on the power play Sunday. He beat Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov short side and top shelf from inside the left circle in the waning seconds of overtime with Travis Hamonic in the penalty box serving a tripping minor. Brad Richards scored the Blueshirts other two power play goals, and also assisted on Gaborik's game-winner in a complete tour-de-force performance.
The Rangers were able to reach overtime despite entering the third period trailing 3-2 because Brian Boyle perfectly deflected a Ryan McDonagh slap shot past Nabokov at 3:29. The goal was Boyle's sixth of the season, and first in a month.
Despite outplaying the Islanders for large swaths of the first 40 minutes, the Rangers arrived at the second intermission trailing 3-2. Twice Richards had scored power play goals to wipe out one-goal deficits, but Andrew MacDonald's goal with 35.3 seconds remaining in the middle period was the difference after twi periods of play.
Sprung from the penalty box after his Islander teammates had killed off his holding minor, MacDonald accepted a long home run pass from John Tavares, skated away from the field, then beat Henrik Lundqvist top shelf to hand the Isles a 3-2 advantage.
After Tavares had opened the scoring 11:15 into the first period, Richards took a puck from behind his own net and skated end to end before firing a wicked wrist shot past Nabokov to tie the game at 18:47 of the opening period. After Matt Moulson chipped a shot off of Lundqvist's pad and over the goal line in the waning seconds of a four-minute power play 7:44 into the middle stanza, Richards once again pulled the Rangers even---this time blasting a slap shot from the left point through Boyle's screen at 16:03.
On the second Richards goal, Mats Zuccarello---recalled earlier in the day from the Connecticut Whale---earned one of the assists. The assist was Zuccarello's first point this season with the Rangers as he had gone scoreless in the first three games before being sent to the minors in October. Zuccarello played on the Rangers' top power play unit Sunday night, and also at even strength with Mike Rupp and John Mitchell, totaling 10:40 worth of ice-time.