Islanders finish season sweep of Rangers with 4-1 win
NEW YORK — John Tavares and the New York Islanders are rolling into the playoffs, making some team history along the way at the Rangers' expense.
Tavares had a goal and an assist, Thomas Greiss made 36 saves and the Islanders earned their first regular-season sweep of their rivals with a 4-1 victory Thursday night.
Shane Prince also had a goal and an assist for the Islanders, who won their third straight and moved into a tie for third with the Rangers with 99 points in the Metropolitan Division. The Pittsburgh Penguins have clinched second place in the division.
"Beating the Rangers is always great," Tavares said. "Obviously there was significance in the positioning today, but I think we know we didn't play our best. Our goaltender really won us that game today."
Frans Nielsen and Casey Cizikas also scored for the Islanders, who took all four matchups with the Rangers.
"We're playing good right now," Nielsen said. "We're winning and I think we've got confidence."
Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein scored with 2:48 left to end Greiss' shutout bid.
The Rangers close the regular season at home against Detroit on Saturday and the Islanders finish with home games against Buffalo on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin next week.
Despite being outshot 16-9 in the second, the Islanders had all the scoring in the period with three goals.
Prince opened the scoring when he deflected Marek Zidlicky's point shot past Henrik Lundqvist at 13:28. It was Prince's sixth goal of the season.
The Islanders scored twice late in the period for a commanding 3-0 lead.
Brock Nelson carried the puck into the zone and passed to Prince, who made a slick pass to Casey Cizikas, who scored his eighth of the season at 18:38 to make it 2-0.
With defenseman Keith Yandle in the penalty box for tripping, Tavares made a lob pass over the stick of Eric Staal to Frans Nielsen, who scored with 14.8 seconds left in the second period. It was Nielsen's 20th goal of the season and his first since March 6, also against the Rangers.
"They had a lucky bounce on the first goal and they made a couple of good plays on the second and third," Lundqvist said. "I thought we played a pretty good game, but for some reason this year they definitely had our number. But at the end, we were playing pretty solid."
Antti Raanta replaced Lundqvist at the start of the third period. Lundqvist had 13 saves through two periods.
The Rangers outshot the Islanders 28-16 through two, but couldn't beat Greiss.
"We did play well the first two periods," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We had some real good looks, some real good offensive zone time, and we just didn't finish.
"That part of the game I didn't like, but you know what you're doing to lead up to get those looks was real good."
The Rangers were banged up on defense playing without Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh.
Girardi was injured Tuesday when he was hit into the end boards during a 3-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Vigneault said Girardi is day to day with an upper-body injury.
McDonagh hurt his hand blocking a shot in a 4-2 win Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Islanders are also dealing with several injuries. Anders Lee left the game with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Travis Hamonic, forward Cal Clutterbuck and goalies J.F. Berube and Jaroslav Halak are all out.
NOTES: Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard was in attendance. The National League champion Mets will play their home opener Friday against Philadelphia. ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first time the Rangers and Islanders have played against each other when each team has had at least 97 points entering the game. ... Lundqvist was selected as the team's most valuable player and Jesper Fast was selected as the players' player award. Lundqvist was selected as the Rangers' MVP for the eighth time in his career, a franchise record. The award has been given annually since the conclusion of the 1941-42 season. Mats Zuccarello won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. The award is presented annually to the Rangers player who, as chosen by the fans, "goes above and beyond the call of duty." The award, which has been given annually since the 1987-88 season, is named after New York City Police Officer Steven McDonald, who was shot and injured in the line of duty on July 12, 1986.