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Rangers 2, Islanders 1 (OT)

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Marian Gaborik scored the winning goal 42 seconds into overtime as the streaking New York Rangers edged the New York Islanders 2-1 on Thursday night in front of a boisterous sellout crowd of 16,170 at Nassau Coliseum.

The Rangers improved to 12-8-2 with their season-high fourth straight win and ensured they'd remain among the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

The Islanders (10-11-3) had their two-game winning streak snapped -- the fifth time this year the Islanders have not been able to win a third straight game -- as they squandered a chance to tie the Rangers for eighth in the East.

The Rangers were frustrated for most of the first 54 minutes by Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who made numerous spectacular saves before Derek Stepan's slap shot from just inside the blue line ticked off the stick of Rick Nash and past Nabokov with 5:23 left. All eight of Nash's goals this season have come in the third period.

Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves for the Rangers, who were playing their first game without defenseman Marc Staal. He suffered a serious right eye injury when he was hit by a puck Tuesday against the Flyers. Staal is out indefinitely.

Nabokov made 35 saves in an impressive effort for the Islanders, who nursed a 1-0 lead for more than two periods after Michael Grabner's goal at 11:51 of the first period.

Colin McDonald chased down a loose puck along the boards and made a no-look, backward pass through traffic to Grabner, who paused a beat before firing the puck over Lundqvist's left shoulder. The goal was Grabner's 10th of the season and his third in as many games.

The Rangers garnered most of the serious scoring chances thereafter before finally breaking through on Nash's goal.

The 243rd regular-season meeting between the fierce rivals was a crisp and well-played one. The game was penalty free until the Islanders' Joe Finley and the Rangers' Stu Bickel were pried apart just before they were about to exchange punches almost nine minute into the second period.

The Islanders killed off two penalties in the second. After the second successful kill, chants of "Let's Go Islanders!" filled the Coliseum.

NOTES: The NHL Players Association approved the league's plan to realign from six divisions to four beginning next season. The Islanders and Rangers will be part of the Atlantic Division along with current Atlantic rivals New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as Carolina and Washington, who are currently in the Southeast Division, and Columbus, which will move from the Western Conference's Central Division. ... In addition to Staal, the Rangers also scratched Brad Richards (sore neck/back) and defenseman Matt Gilroy. ... The Islanders scratched defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who missed his second straight game while tending to a personal issue in his native Slovakia, as well as center Keith Aucoin and winger David Ullstrom. ... Defenseman Roman Hamrlik started in his debut for the Rangers. He was claimed him off waivers Wednesday from the Capitals. ... The sellout crowd was the third in 14 home dates for the Islanders. Of the 14 sellouts they have drawn since the start of the 2010-11 season, five have come against the Rangers.
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