NEW YORK -- Left winger Thomas Vanek's power-play goal 1:18 into the third powered the New York Islanders to a 5-3 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
Right winger Michael Grabner scored twice and right winger Cal Clutterbuck and defenseman Brian Strait also scored for the Islanders, who improved to 10-19-7. Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves.
The Rangers fell to 16-18-2, despite receiving goals from left winger Benoit Pouliot, right winger Derek Dorsett and center Derek Stepan. Henrik Lundqvist finished with 15 saves.
On a 5-on-3 power play to start the third due to Rangers right winger Chris Kreider and defenseman Dan Girardi in the box for interference, Vanek deftly tipped right winger Kyle Okposo's centering feed from the point under Lundqvist for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Vanek's goal capped a wild, back-and-forth affair which saw both teams trade scoring chances and momentum swings throughout.
The Islanders went into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead due scoring two shorthanded goals in a span of 3:27. Clutterbuck was awarded a penalty shot with 5:18 left in the period after Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was called for hooking him on a breakaway, and snapped a low shot that eluded Lundqvist in the ensuing one-on-one.
Three minutes and 27 seconds later, the lead was 2-0 after Grabner scored his first goal since opening night, and just his third of the season, on an unassisted breakaway. The play began with Grabner taking the puck away from McDonagh in the defensive zone, and using his world class speed to create the scoring chance.
The lead lasted for 30 seconds.
Pouliot's power-play goal 30 seconds later cut the deficit in half. His fourth of the season concluded a tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Kreider and center Derick Brassard.
Dorsett drew the Rangers even three minutes into the second period with an off-angled shot that eluded Nabokov, who was partially screened by Rangers center Brian Boyle. Dorsett's goal, his third of the season, marked the third time in three games that the Rangers tied an opponent after falling behind by two goals.
The Islanders had an opportunity midway through the second to regain a two-goal advantage and, naturally, it occurred while shorthanded. Twelve seconds after Clutterbuck was called for cross-checking Dorsett, Grabner broke in on Lundqvist but his wrist shot hit the crossbar.
It proved costly when Stepan's power play goal 1:06 later gave the Rangers their first lead of the game, 3-2.
It didn't last.
Strait tied the game at 3-3 three minutes and eight seconds later with his first of the season. It stayed that way until Vanek's game-winner.
Grabner added an empty netter with 50 seconds remaining.
The Islanders went 1-for-4 on the power play. The Rangers finished 2-for-7 with the man advantage.
The rivals meet three more times this season. Two of those games will be contested at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 21 and Jan. 31.
NOTES: The Islanders entered Friday night's game having lost 13 of their last 15. "We've lost some games, obviously. Some tough losses," coach Jack Capuano said after his team's morning skate at Madison Square Garden. "We have to try to find a way (to win). Some of the ways we've been losing is tough to explain." ... Rangers C J.T. Miller began the game centering a line with Brad Richards and Benoit Pouliot. "(Assistant Jim Schoenfeld) and I talked to (AHL Hartford Wolfpack coach Ken Gernander) and (he said]) J.T. was playing well, real well, at both ends of the rink," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "They were using him at center and we just felt, after discussing where we (are) at this time, it might be a good time to give him a look. With the (NHL holiday roster) freeze, he's here until at least (Dec. 27)."