2009-02-20 / Sports

Rangers Snap Skid With Crucial Victory Over Islanders

By Nathaniel E. Baker

The New York Rangers finally discovered how it feels to win again, defeating the New York Islanders 3-1 at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night to stop their losing streak at four games.

The win, just the Rangers' second in its last 10 games, should remove some pressure from their beleaguered head coach Tom Renney—at least for the time being. There were no "Fire Renney" chants heard at the Garden Wednesday night, even though the victory was anything but clear-cut and remained in doubt until the waning seconds of the third period.

If Renney indeed "lost" his players, as has been reported, it did not show in the team's locker room after the game. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said Renney "absolutely" had the support of the team.

"He's a great coach and great person," Lundqvist said of Renney. "Lately he's been trying to get us to feel good and feel confident and that's what's important when you go through a stretch like this.

"We told ourselves, 'let's start a new season today, this is the first game of 24 and try to get a fresh start,'" Lundqvist added. The mental adjustment appeared to pay dividends.

The winning goal came at 7:26 of the second period off a wrist shot by Scott Gomez that probably should have been saved by Islanders goaltender Yann Danis. But the puck trickled between Danis' pads and over the goal line, handing the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

"He just crept in there and found a hole," Rangers captain Chris Drury, who got an assist on the play, said of Gomez.

Many of the Rangers players agreed the team played its best 20 minutes of hockey in the third period. "We played really well in the third, I think. Shut them down," said Lundqvist. "In the first five or seven minutes of the third they got into our zone but from then on we felt pretty good," said Drury.

But it was not until seven seconds before the final horn that the Rangers put the victory to bed. Drury lifted the puck into neutral ice where Fredrik Sjostorm sped onto it and fired it into the empty Islanders net, vacated by Danis for an extra skater moments earlier

"We got a big win," said Drury, who was nevertheless not willing to rest on any laurels. "We have to keep working as hard as we can and get prepared for a good Buffalo team on Saturday."

Saturday's game against the Sabres kicks off a stretch of five games in eight days. The team has little margin for error as it enters the stretch run of the regular season. With 23 games left, New York is in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but only two points clear of eighth-placed Buffalo and the final playoff spot. Lundqvist preferred to see the glass as half full. "We have to remember we're still in the playoffs here," he said of the team's place in the standings. "A lot of teams go up and down down the stretch. We just have to stay confident."

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