Islanders-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Coach John Tortorella isn't too concerned with the New York Rangers' latest loss.

Returning to Madison Square Garden for the next seven games might be a reason for that.

The Eastern Conference-leading Rangers look to snap their season high-tying three-game skid by continuing their home dominance of the New York Islanders on Sunday night.

The Rangers (42-18-7) lost for the sixth time in seven road games and completed a winless three-game trip with a 4-3 defeat to Chicago on Friday.

Tortorella, though, isn't worried even after his team surrendered three third-period goals and matched its longest skid since starting the season with three consecutive losses.

They haven't endured a longer slide since dropping six straight from Jan. 25-Feb. 11, 2011.

"If you watch the third period, the game was going our way," Tortorella said. "We were doing fine. We have a defensive mistake, someone falls down and they end up scoring, and then get another one after that. I thought we got back to the way we needed to play. I thought we had some sustained pressure. I thought we did some things along the walls. I thought we checked well.

"We did a lot of good things. We were finding ways to win earlier. We're finding ways to lose right now."

Perhaps a return to MSG will provide a spark for the Rangers, who are 22-7-2 there with six wins in seven games. This seven-game homestand equals the longest in club history, most recently during the 2001-02 season.

Capitalizing on this stretch will be key if the Rangers are going to maintain their status atop the East. They enter Sunday leading red-hot Pittsburgh by four points, but the Penguins host Boston earlier in the day.

The Rangers and Penguins meet Thursday at the Garden, two days after a visit from Carolina.

Before that, the Rangers will try to get untracked with another victory against the Islanders (28-31-9) in the conclusion of the season series, which they lead 3-1-1.

The Rangers have outscored their Atlantic Division rivals 27-7 while winning six in a row at home, including a 3-0 victory on Dec. 26.

The most recent matchup, however, ended in 4-3 in a shootout loss at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 24.

Rangers leading scorer Marian Gaborik should be happy to see the Islanders. He has 18 goals and 11 assists in the past 20 meetings overall, and seven and two during the team's six-game home streak in the series.

The Islanders are nine points out of playoff position, and their dim postseason hopes haven't been helped by a 3-6-1 run. Their latest defeat may have been the toughest of the season, as they surrendered two goals 14 seconds apart in the final two minutes en route to a 2-1 loss to New Jersey on Saturday.

"It's how we regroup after this one that counts," coach Jack Capuano said.

John Tavares scored his 27th goal in the loss, leaving him two shy of his career high set last season. The All-Star center has five goals and 12 assists in 10 meetings with the Rangers, but just one and three, respectively, in eight visits to MSG.

P.A. Parenteau, a member of the Rangers during the 2009-10 season, has seven goals and eight assists in 11 games against his former club, scoring twice in the latest matchup.

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