All Marian Gaborik needed was one shot for three weeks’ worth of frustration to vanish. Now the Rangers hope their 40-goal sniper will reappear.
“It feels good,” Gaborik said after his power-play goal 42 seconds into overtime Thursday night was the difference in the Rangers’ 2-1 win over the Islanders.
The Rangers have won four in a row and improved to 12-8-2 this season.
“We stuck with our game plan. We kept working and it’s a huge win for us,” said Michael Del Zotto, who drew the hook from Michael Grabner 21 seconds into the overtime that gave the Rangers the power play.
Playing the point on the power play, Gaborik skated to the top of the right faceoff circle and ripped a drive past a screened Nabokov. The goal was Gaborik’s first since Feb. 14.
“Haven’t scored in a while,” Gaborik said.
The hooking call so incensed the Islanders (10-11-3) that Kyle Okposo received a 10-minute misconduct and the coaching staff was assessed a game misconduct after the loss.
“It sucks,” Jack Capuano said of the penalty. “It’s unfortunate that it comes down to a power play at the end.”
The loss ended the Islanders’ two-game win streak.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 of 28 shots. His only mistake was yielding Grabner’s goal. Grabner one-timed a Colin McDonald feed over Lundqvist’s glove 11:51 into the game for his 10th of the season.
Entering the game, the triumvirate of Grabner, Matt Moulson and John Tavares had scored 34 of the Islanders’ 68 goals this season.
While the Rangers had more total shot attempts (77-55), their suburban rivals were stalwart in their own end. For the most part the Rangers were unable to implement their forecheck game as the majority of shot attempts were from the perimeter.
“They do a great job of blocking shots,” Derek Stepan said of the Islanders. “One of their strengths is that they block shots.
Nabokov’s two toughest saves came in the third period. He stayed back in his crease and did not give Nash any room to shoot after the left wing skated through the Islanders and attempted to stuff a shot past the netminder. Nabokov later swallowed Darroll Powe’s point-blank drive with 6:20 left.
“We had the game in our hands,” Nabokov said. “They were pressuring us because we were up 1-0. [It is] exactly how the playoffs [are].”
The Rangers kept attacking and it paid off when Nash’s eighth goal of the season tied the game with 14:37 expired in the third. He tipped Stepan’s point shot under Nabokov (35 saves).
“It’s pretty easy to anchor two guys who are playing the way they are right now,” Stepan said of his linemates, Nash and Carl Hagelin. “The way Rick brings the puck to the net and the things he can do one-on-one makes my job really easy. We just had to get one through. I’m looking to get something on net and Rick makes a good tip.”
The goal energized the Rangers and set the stage for Gaborik’s game-winner. The Rangers finished the game 1-for-3 on the power play and are 8-for-34 on the man advantage dating back to Feb. 17. Not coincidentally, the Rangers are 5-3-1 in that stretch.
“He’s made some good plays,” head coach John Tortorella said about Gaborik being on the point on the power play. “He scores a goal tonight. [He] made a couple plays in the last game [against the Flyers]. Our power play, the last 10-12 games, it’s been finding its way. Gabby did a nice job there, so it opens up a lot of different situations that I can use with two power plays if Gabby plays the point on one.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.