Rangers-Islanders Preview

Cam Talbot has turned in three straight gems against respected opponents, but the next test is shaping up as the most difficult of the bunch.

There’s also plenty of history leading in.

The New York Rangers visit the New York Islanders on Tuesday night with ground at the crowded top of the Metropolitan Division at stake, not to mention an opportunity to go out on top in their 126th and final regular-season game at Nassau Coliseum.

Only Philadelphia has visited more (128).

"It’s only my second year here, but the fans have always been very involved – extremely emotional, extremely passionate," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the team’s official website. "But I’m not so interested in the past, I’m focused on this one game and getting the two points."

The Rangers (40-17-7) have allowed three goals in the last three games with Talbot posting a .965 save percentage during the 2-0-1 span, including a 29-save effort in Sunday’s 1-0 overtime win in Chicago.

Talbot has started 15 of 16 games while Henrik Lundqvist recovers from a vascular injury in his neck, and the Rangers have gone 11-2-3 in the absence of their No. 1 goalie.

Talbot beat Nashville 4-1 and lost 2-1 in overtime at Detroit prior to facing the Blackhawks.

"Going up against one of the best teams in the league again – they’ve been kind of the measuring stick the past five or six years – to grind out a greasy road win it feels really good in this room right now," Talbot told the team’s official website.

Derick Brassard also built a little confidence, scoring less than a minute into overtime to snap a 14-game drought.

"It felt pretty good," said Brassard, whose team is headed into the third contest on a five-game road span riding a 6-1-1 away run. "I hadn’t scored in like a decade."

The Islanders (43-21-4), second in the league with 3.10 goals per game, have been much more disruptive against the Rangers with 18 goals while winning three of four in the season series, though the Rangers have won four of five on Long Island to improve to 52-63-2 with eight ties at Nassau.

Lundqvist suffered the three losses this season, but Talbot wasn’t overly impressive in a 6-5 road win Feb. 16. Talbot made 38 saves but as a starter is 2-1-0 with a 3.70 goals-against average versus the Islanders.

John Tavares has scored in three of the four meetings, Ryan Strome has three goals in the last two and Frans Nielsen has at least a point in each. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk has a six-game point streak against the Rangers.

For the Rangers, top scorer Rick Nash has been limited to two points in the last six meetings.

The Islanders have played four more games than the Rangers and lead them by three points in the division, while Pittsburgh and Washington are also in the mix.

The Islanders’ most recent two points seemed improbable in Monday’s 4-3 overtime win in Toronto. They trailed 3-1 midway through the third period before Nielsen and Casey Cizikas scored to send it to overtime.

Tavares then scored with 22 seconds remaining in the extra period and also had an assist to give him seven points in three games and extend his league lead to 72.

"It’s a much better feeling than it could have been," Tavares said. "We were disappointed with our first two periods."

They also got some immediate production from Tyler Kennedy, who scored and had an assist in his Islanders debut.

Jaroslav Halak figures to start in goal after Michal Neuvirth earned his first Islanders win against the Maple Leafs. Halak has been in net for each meeting this season, going 3-1-0 with a 2.51 GAA and .935 save percentage while facing at least 41 shots in three of the contests. He’s won seven of nine against the Rangers with a 1.89 GAA.

The Islanders could be without Nick Leddy after the defenseman left Monday’s game following a collision and didn’t return.