Nash's goal leads Rangers past first-place Islanders, 2-1

By on March 11, 2015

Rick Nash's goal in the third period is the difference-maker for the Rangers.Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

Rick Nash’s goal in the third period is the difference-maker for the Rangers.

RANGERS 2, ISLANDERS 1

If Tuesday was the final game between the Islanders and Rangers at Nassau Coliseum, the Rangers got the last laugh.

Rick Nash scored the game-winning goal, Cam Talbot made 29 saves and the Blueshirts escaped Long Island with a 2-1 win.

Barring a postseason meeting between the two clubs, Tuesday will be the final game between the two rivals at the Coliseum. The Rangers improved to 2-3-0 in the head-to-head series this season and moved to within one point of the Isles for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Anders Lee put the home team on the board first with his 23rd goal of the season at 9:35 of the first period. The 6’3″ 220-pound forward used his size and strength to outwork Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle from behind the net and squeezed the puck through Talbot before Marc Staal could slide over and help. The Isles owned most of the first period with a 13-7 advantage in shots on goal and by winning 14 of 17 face-offs.

Rangers rookie standout Kevin Hayes brought the Blueshirts back to even with a highlight reel goal at 11:35 of the second. Soon after a deflection by Rick Nash broke up an Isles rush, Mats Zuccarello seized the puck and fired a pass from blue line to blue line to Hayes. With defenseman Thomas Hickey draped all over him, Hayes planted, spun, managed to shake Hickey and then slammed the puck over the goal line past a a diving Jaroslav Halak in net.

After scrambling for several minutes after the Hayes goal, coach Jack Capuano called timeout with 6:24 to play to calm his team down. The result was a reenergized Islander team, that saw some of it’s best chances of the night. But Talbot was up for the task for the Blueshirts the rest of the way with several huge saves including two breakaways by Casey Cizikas, several Grade-A chances by Josh Bailey and a stop on Matt Martin on the doorstep. Tyler Kennedy also misfired on a 2-on-1 opportunity with John Tavares.

At 2:50 of the third period, a fortuitous bounce gave Nash his 39th goal of the season and the Rangers the lead. The Blueshirts forward threw the puck toward net from the blue line, where it caromed off of Islanders forward Ryan Strome and in to make it 2-1. Minutes later, Nash had a shot to extend the lead on a wide open net off a rebound, but defenseman Calvin de Haan slid in to preserve the score. The Isles buzzed tirelessly in the final few minutes, but simply couldn’t solve Talbot.

The Islanders welcomed back Kyle Okposo on Tuesday, who returned to the lineup after missing 22 games with a career-threatening detached retina.

“It was after the last game against Philly (Jan. 19) there before the All-Star Break. I had some blurry vision and I thought it might just be my contacts, but when I took my contacts out that night I knew something was wrong. I went to the eye doctor the next day and they told me we had to have emergency surgery on (Jan. 21),” Okposo said. “It was definitely a scary thing. The doc told me my vision wasn’t guaranteed to come back. At that point, you just start thinking about what’s important. It wasn’t just about hockey, it was about the rest of my life.”

On the same day they welcomed Okposo, the Isles had to do without Nick Leddy. The star defenseman had played in 320 consecutive regular season games (252 with Chicago), but was sidelined Tuesday with an unspecified injury. Leddy left mid-game during Monday night’s 4-3 overtime win in Toronto after a second period collision with the Leafs’ Morgan Rielly.

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