UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It took until the waning moments of regulation and overtime, but the New York Rangers' playoff experience paid off in a playoff-type game against the rival New York Islanders on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Marian Gaborik's power-play goal 42 seconds into overtime lifted the streaking Rangers to a come-from-behind 2-1 win in front of a boisterous sellout crowd of 16,170 at Nassau Coliseum.
The win was the season-high fourth in a row for the Rangers (12-8-2), who strengthened their grip on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are three points ahead of the Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets.
The Rangers, a popular preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup, have emerged from a slow start by relying on the patience and resiliency they developed during a deep playoff run last season, when they finished with an Eastern Conference-high 109 points and lost to the Devils in the East finals.
Those traits came in handy Thursday night, when the Rangers generated plenty of chances against a spectacular Evgeni Nabokov (35 saves) but didn't break through until Rick Nash's fluke goal with 5:23 left in the third period.
"I thought we were playing well throughout the game," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We needed just to stay with it, not let one go by us again and just play our game. And I thought we did that."
The Rangers didn't surrender a power-play opportunity and drew just one penalty. The Islanders were almost as efficient in killing off the Rangers' only two power plays in regulation, but Gaboriak beat Nabokov with a slap shot from just beyond the faceoff circles 21 seconds after Michael Grabner was whistled for hooking.
"We tried to move it around and just tried to get it into a good shooting line," Gaboriak said. "Just tried to tee it up and it went in. Happy for that."
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 Islanders have not made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, the fourth-longest drought in the NHL.
"That's exactly how a playoff game is," Nabokov said. "They had momentum and we had momentum. They were pressuring us because we were up 1-0. Exactly how the playoffs (are)."
With Nabokov playing so well, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist (28 saves) recognized he had no margin for error after he surrendered Grabner's goal 11:51 into the first period.
"My focus was just on wanting to stop the next shot and the next shot," Lundqvist said. "It was a fun game, great atmosphere in the building. It's always fun to play when it's loud and you can feel the intensity in the building."
The Rangers had several excellent scoring chances in the second and third, but Nabokov stopped J.T. Miller at point-blank range before making glove saves on shots by Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto.
The Rangers tied it when Derek Stepan's slap shot from just inside the blue line ticked off the stick of Nash and past Nabokov. All eight of Nash's goals this season have come in the third period.
"I think (the Islanders) had a feeling that he was going to shut the door all the way there," Lundqvist said of Nabokov. "It felt like it wasn't our night. We had our chances, but the puck didn't want to go in. But we stayed patient, which was key."
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, which was echoing all night with the dueling fan bases screaming at one another.
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. ... Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who is out indefinitely after he suffered a serious right eye injury when he was hit by a puck Tuesday against the Flyers, was scratched along with 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.