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Vanek powers Isles to win over Rangers

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- For New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano, it was a case of fighting instinct.

Every inclination Capuano had told him to break up top line after watching them struggle badly in the opening 20 minutes. Instead, he kept the line of left winger Thomas Vanek, center John Tavares and right winger Kyle Okposo intact.

And it paid off.

"I thought they responded as the game went on," Capuano said a few minutes after

Vanek's tiebreaking goal with 4:38 left in regulation powered the New York Islanders to a 5-3 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Islanders top line finished with a goal and six assists for seven points and a plus-1 rating.

"They have some dynamic players," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Their top line had quite an evening."

Left winger Matt Martin, defenseman Thomas Hickey, right winger Colin McDonald and center Frans Nielsen also scored for the Islanders (21-24-7), who have won 11 of 16.

Goaltender Kevin Poulin made 30 saves.

Left winger Rick Nash scored twice and right winger Chris Kreider added another goal for the Rangers, who fell to 27-22-3.

Goaltender Cam Talbot made 32 saves in the loss.

"There are some parts that we are going to address," Vigneault said. "We are going to try (and) improve."

Vanek tapped a centering feed from center John Tavares for the game-winning goal, capping a wild affair which momentum swings both ways.

The Rangers had leads of 1-0, 2-0 and 3-1 because of their top line. Nash scored two goals in the game's first 11:07 to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

But the Rangers couldn't shake their suburban rivals.

"The whole game didn't feel right," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "We were a little behind in our thinking for whatever reason.

"We were loose and waiting for things to happen throughout the game that in the past few weeks we had taken control of."

And it came back to haunt them.

Martin's third of the season with 2:38 left in the first got the Islanders on the board and cut the Rangers lead to 2-1. The scoring sequence began with Kreider being stuffed by Poulin, and Martin finished the counter-attack by lifting his third of the season over Talbot's glove.

"Great for (Matt Martin)," Tavares said. "He's had some chances lately and has been wanting to contribute. Always a physical guy but it's always nice to see those guys pot some goals. They work so hard and play a tough game and it means a lot when they step up like that. That's what brought us a lot of success last year--all four lines contributing offensively--and we had it again tonight."

Kreider's power-play goal at 9:31 of the second pushed the advantage to 3-1. But Hickey and McDonald scored in a span of 3:14 to send the teams into the second intermission tied at 3.

"I thought the secondary guys came up big," Capuano said. "Those other lines generated, they got pucks in, they grinded it out. Our top line, they struggled a little bit in the first but they came around. Your best players have to be your best players."

NOTES: The Rangers did not have G Henrik Lundqvist as he missed the game with an undisclosed illness. The Rangers signed G David LeNeveu, who has shuttled between AHL Providence (the Boston Bruins affiliate) and Hartford (the Rangers affiliate). ... Due to injuries to D Travis Hamonic (upper body) and Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), the Islanders have had to depend on prospect defensemen Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan. Donovan has played 29 games with the Islanders this season, while de Haan has dressed in 25. "You can't beat them down," Capuano said when asked how much of the coaching staff's job was to keep de Haan and Donovan's morale up after making on-ice mistakes. "You have to stay positive with them. You have to continue to communicate, continue to teach on a daily basis with those guys. The one thing we want to do is install confidence in them and continue to let them play with the poise that they play with, and know what they were successful in the American League doing. We don't want them changing." ... The Islanders have won two of the three meetings between the rivals. They will meet twice more this season, Jan. 29 at Yankee Stadium and Jan. 31 at Madison Square Garden. ...The Rangers finished the game 1-for-4 on the man advantage. The Islanders were 1-for-5 on the power play.
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