NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach John Tortorella had benched veteran center Brian Boyle, saying before Thursday night's game the team's "kids" had jammed up the lineup a bit for a Rangers team looking for a spark after an inconsistent start this season.
Then one of those kids, rookie J.T. Miller, led the way to a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden, scoring the first two goals of his career.
The 19-year-old forward, called up from AHL affiliate Connecticut on Monday, also gave the Rangers just their fourth goal in 37 power-play opportunities on his second goal of the game. He became the first Ranger to score multiple goals in his Garden debut since Chris Kontos did so on Jan. 3, 1983, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"It was kind of a cool feeling," Miller said of the fans, which included his mother, grandmother and girlfriend, chanting his name in his Garden debut. "I'm just trying to stay even keel here. Obviously, it was nice for me, but even better we got the win on home ice and a big bounce back from last game. We just have to keep looking forward."
Marc Staal had two assists and Marian Gaborik broke out of a mini-slump with a goal for the Rangers (5-5-0), who welcomed back injured captain Ryan Callahan. Ryan McDonagh wrapped up the game with an empty-net goal and had an assist.
John Tavares scored his fifth goal of the season and Matt Moulson and Joe Finley assisted for the Islanders (4-5-1), who lost for the third straight time. The Isles were 0 of 5 on the power play and haven't scored on 19 attempts in their past three games.
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves for the Rangers and Evgeni Nabokov had 21 stops for the Islanders.
"If we came in here and held them to mid-20 in shots, I thought we'd have a good chance of winning the game," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "But some guys played tentative and some guys didn't take hits to make plays. You're not going to win like that."
Up 2-1 late in the second period, the Rangers appeared set to waste yet another power-play opportunity and allow a short-handed goal instead as Islanders forward Michael Grabner zeroed in on Lundqvist in front of the net. But the Rangers goalie made a kick-save to his right, and a few moments later McDonagh found Miller down the other end of the ice.
Miller, who had drawn the interference penalty on Moulson to put the Rangers on the power play, then gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead with 25 seconds left in the man advantage. He poked the puck past Nabokov's right side with 1:49 left in the third.
"I was trying to go right over his blocker there," said Miller, sporting the "Broadway hat" the Rangers give to the best player after a win. "I think it went through his arm; it's nice for it to go in."
Said Capuano: "That power play killed our momentum. Just absolutely destroyed it."
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Islanders got on the board thanks to Tavares at 11:13 of the second period. His wrist shot sailed over Lundqvist's glove to make it 2-1.
After sitting Boyle as a healthy scratch, Tortorella said before the game he hoped Boyle didn't put him in that position again. He said he also considered benching more high-profile players. He hinted that Gaborik, who entered the game with five goals, could be a consideration but said the higher-profile players "have a bit of a bank account, five goals. Brian has squat. This is the situation. The other guys are going to be held accountable also."
Whether the message was received by Gaborik, he earned his first point in the past five games and sixth goal of the year, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead at the 14:04 mark of the second period. Gaborik banged in a rebound off a Staal slap shot, with Brad Richards also getting an assist.
But Miller stole the show and it didn't take him long to show he could do so. He gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at the 1:29 mark of the first period on his first shift at the Garden. With assists from Kreider and Staal, Miller poked the puck past Nabokov's left side.
"He has some bite to him," Tortorella said of the confidence of the player who backed out of a commitment to North Dakota and was drafted by the Rangers as the 15th overall pick in the 2011 draft. "I know a lot of things that went on before he came to us. I'd rather have a guy you need to tame a little bit. He's got some strut to his game. We've just got to make sure he doesn't cross the line the other way."
NOTES: The Islanders acquired the contract of goaltender Tim Thomas from the Boston Bruins, the teams announced, but it is unlikely Thomas will play for New York. Thomas, 38, did not want to play this season and is on the Bruins' suspended list. That status is likely to transfer to the Islanders, who sent the Bruins a conditional second-round pick. According to reports, the condition is if Thomas plays for the Islanders, so the exchange appears to simply be a move to create cap space for the Bruins in the last year of Thomas' four-year deal worth a reported $20 million while helping the Islanders reach the cap floor. ... Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was out for the second straight game with an undisclosed injury. ... Callahan had been out since last Tuesday with a subluxation of his left shoulder. ... MSG Network Rangers reporter John Giannone was struck by a puck late in the second period but continued his update, even while bleeding.