UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP)—Last season, the New York Rangers took only three of eight games from their also-ran rivals, the New York Islanders. With only six games on this season’s schedule, the Rangers are already off to a good start.
Team captain Chris Drury scored his first two goals and Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Islanders on Monday night. The Rangers (9-2-1) tied the franchise record for best start through 12 games and have the most points in the NHL. The Islanders (2-6) own the fewest.
“It’s still early in the season, so who knows where everybody ends up,” said Tom Renney, who passed Roger Neilson for fourth place on the Rangers’ coaching victory list with No. 142. “These are important games because we do have a good point total and we want to add to that. If that is at the expense of somebody in our division, great.
“It doesn’t matter what people quantify their game as, they’re an NHL team that can beat anybody on any given night.”
Drury, who has bounced around between various linemates in Renney’s quest to find a trio that clicks, scored off a deflection 56 seconds in against backup goalie Joey MacDonald.
He added a power-play tally during a long two-man advantage with 7:26 remaining to make it 4-1. Ryan Callahan and Scott Gomez both netted their third goals for the Rangers, who have won three straight.
Both of Drury’s goals hit Islanders before beating MacDonald.
“It’s tough to score in this league,” Drury said. “I’ll take them off my knee, off my head, any way I can get them.”
They didn’t come close to matching the offense of Saturday’s 4-3 home loss when they recorded a team-record 60 shots. And missing injured top goalie Rick DiPietro didn’t help.
MacDonald started for the first time since Oct. 16, and was backed up by someone other than DiPietro for the first time this season. Yann Danis got the call from Bridgeport of the AHL.
DiPietro had surgery to fix a knee and a hip during the offseason and didn’t play the first four games. His latest injury is undisclosed and he is day to day.
“We came away from the game plan, and got the result of coming out of our game plan,” Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. “If Ricky’s not here, he can’t help us. Joey’s been doing a great job, and we’ve got to move ahead.”
DiPietro lasted only one period Saturday against Carolina, allowing two goals on 12 shots. One of the goals came directly after he turned over the puck with an ill-advised clearing attempt.
The Islanders announced he was pulled because of an injury and not based on his performance. DiPietro was examined by a doctor on Monday, but no details were provided.
Callahan restored the Rangers’ lead late in the second period when he beat Trent Hunter to a loose puck in the slot, and with a spinning motion whipped a shot past MacDonald at 16:16.
In the first, after MacDonald made a crisp left pad stop on a shot by Nikolai Zherdev, the puck came to Drury, who scored his first of the night from behind the net.
“It’s a little disappointing,” MacDonald said. “The bounces aren’t going our way right now. Eventually, they’ll turn our way.”
The Rangers killed off a pair of penalties on Brandon Dubinsky in the first, but couldn’t keep the lead through the period. That earned the young forward a brief benching.
“We hung in. We didn’t break, that’s the big thing,” Renney said.
Okposo, who had a golden scoring chance in front earlier in the period off a giveaway by Zherdev, made up for the miss. The rookie took a pass in the slot from Richard Park and wired a drive past Lundqvist for his first this season and third in 17 NHL games.
“The first half of the game, I liked our chances better than theirs,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “I’m concerned why the game changed for us. It’s not so much them, it’s what we did to ourselves.”
The large chunk of Rangers fans drowned out chants of “Jo-ey, Jo-ey” in the second with cheers of “Let’s Go Rangers.” With 2 minutes remaining, they taunted Islanders fans with refrains of “You Can’t Beat Us.”
The Rangers had 19 points through 12 games in the 1978-79 and 1989-90 seasons (8-1-3). They also had nine wins through 12 games in the 1983-84 season (9-3). … The Islanders said D Brendan Witt will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed injury. D Freddy Meyer is day to day due to an abdominal strain. … Rangers D Michal Rozsival had two assists. … MacDonald made 35 saves.