UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Henrik Lundqvist stopped 35 shots and made coach John Tortorella‘s decision to bench a pair of veteran players look smart as the New York Rangers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Ryan Callahan scored a pair of goals and added two assists, Marian Gaborik had his NHL-leading 24th goal and two assists, and Michal Rozsival and Vinny Prospal had two assists each to help the Rangers salvage a split of the home-and-home series.
If not for Lundqvist’s 14 stops in the first period and shaky goaltending from the Islanders’ Dwayne Roloson, it likely wouldn’t have happened.
The Rangers had scored two goals or fewer in seven straight games and 17 of the previous in 21 contests. During their 1-6-2 skid before Thursday, the Rangers netted only 15 goals. New York hadn’t had more than three goals since beating Columbus 7-4 on Nov. 23 — 10 games earlier.
Callahan and captain Chris Drury scored in the first period, Callahan added his second power-play goal of the night in the second, Gaborik converted during a 5-on-3 advantage in the third, and Artem Anisimov closed the barrage on the beleaguered Roloson with an even-strength tally.
The only blemishes for Lundqvist were defenseman Andrew MacDonald‘s first NHL goal 9:31 into the second and a goal by Frans Nielsen with 4:46 left.
Lundqvist was nearly beaten for an embarrassing tally when he raced from his net to the left-wing boards to try to beat Nate Thompson to a loose puck. Lundqvist fell down, leaving the net totally exposed, yet Thompson’s unimpeded shot went way wide right.
Following the Rangers’ 2-1 loss at home to the Islanders on Wednesday, Tortorella angrily criticized his club’s performance that started with a first period in which the Rangers trailed 1-0 and were outshot 10-3. Tortorella responded by benching defenseman Wade Redden and forward Ales Kotalik for the rematch.
The Islanders jumped on the Rangers again in the first period on their home ice, racing out to a 9-0 edge in shots but couldn’t solve Lundqvist, who made four saves on an early power play. By the time Callahan gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with 6:54 left in the first period, the shot differential was 12-2.
Drury, who started on New York’s fourth line, doubled the lead to 2-0 at 17:56 with his third of the season and first in 20 games. The Rangers were outshot 14-4 in the period, but carried the two-goal edge into the second by converting on half their shot attempts.
Callahan scored his ninth of the season 27 seconds into the middle period, when the Islanders had a 14-12 shots advantage.
The Rangers broke the game open in the third. Gaborik ripped a one-timer from inside the blue line at 3:37 after a slew of roughing penalties left the Islanders two men short. Anisimov’s sixth at 6:50 made it 5-1.
Roloson made 17 saves. … Callahan had a career-best four points. His previous high for a game was two. … Rangers were 3-for-6 on the power play. The Islanders were 0-for-7. … The Islanders have been outscored 12-3 in their past two home games, both losses. … Redden and Kotalik were healthy scratches for the first time this season. They were replaced by D Bobby Sanguinetti and C Erik Christensen.