Rangers 2, Islanders 1, OT

Monday, March 26th 2007, 7:24 am
By: News On 6

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ Sean Hill's tugging penalty paled in comparison to Chris Simon's stick attack, but turned out to be every bit as damaging to the New York Islanders' playoff hopes.

Hill hooked New York Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr, and the power play it produced in overtime led to Michael Nylander's goal that gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory Sunday.

In the first meeting between the teams since Simon lost his cool and nailed Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg with a vicious swing of his stick on March 8 _ leading to his record 25-game suspension _ New York City's team cashed in again on an advantage and broke a 1-1 tie with 48.9 seconds showing on the OT clock.

``Every point we lose is a lost point,'' goalie Rick DiPietro said of the Islanders, who inched into an eighth-place tie in the Eastern Conference.

Nylander planted himself in front of DiPietro and deflected in Brendan Shanahan's shot that was more like a pass. It gave the Rangers their fifth straight victory and moved them one point ahead of Tampa Bay into sixth place in the crowded East playoff chase.

``Every single game is huge,'' Nylander said of the Rangers, 10-1-3 in their last 14. ``This was a tough game.''

In other NHL action, it was: Pittsburgh 5, Boston 0; Calgary 3, Chicago 2; Columbus 4, St. Louis 1; and Colorado 5, Vancouver 4 in a shootout.

The Islanders tied it in the third period on Alexei Yashin's power-play goal, forcing overtime. That was one step further than two weeks earlier when Simon's major penalty for attempting to injure Hollweg led to Petr Prucha's winning goal late in regulation.

This time the stick foul was oh so minor, so much so that Hill protested on his way into and out of the penalty box.

``I wouldn't want to be in that position to decide the game,'' the defenseman said. ``I felt like I got my stick in the right place and let go of it.''

The Islanders jumped into a three-way tie at the playoff cutoff with Montreal and Carolina. They trail the Rangers by three points.

``You can't be satisfied,'' Islanders forward Ryan Smyth said. ``We've got seven games remaining and we've got to find a way through to capitalize and get two (points) and minimize other teams getting points.''

Simon was in the building for the rematch but could only watch his teammates lose their third straight 2-1 decision to the Rangers in 21 days _ twice after regulation.

``Obviously it's a very intense rivalry but I don't think by any means the Chris Simon incident was a part of this,'' Smyth said.

Simon tried to arrange a meeting with Hollweg through the teams' public relations staffs on Saturday to apologize for his shot that caught Hollweg on the chin and produced a minor injury. But that couldn't be worked out because the Rangers had a team dinner after arriving on Long Island following a win at Boston.

Hollweg declined to see Simon, who is eight games into his season-ending suspension, on Sunday, because he wanted to focus only on the latest chapter of hockey's version of New York-New York.

``There is no Simon-Hollweg thing. None,'' said Shanahan, injured for the two previous Islanders contests. ``The games are too important, and that business has taken care of itself. It wasn't talked about in this dressing room and I can guarantee it wasn't talked about in their dressing room.''

Unlike Saturday when the Rangers had to kill off a penalty for over a minute in overtime, they went on the power play with 1:13 remaining when Hill slowed Jagr with his stick. When Nylander netted his 23rd of the season, Hill jawed at the officials as he came out of the box.

DiPietro was sharp in making 32 saves, but angrily backhanded the puck out of his net as the Rangers celebrated their sixth 2-1 victory in 11 games at center ice.

Henrik Lundqvist is a big reason why the Rangers completed a pair of 2-1 road wins on back-to-back days. He stopped 34 shots after making 40 saves Saturday against the Bruins.

``I want to play in a game where every save means the difference in winning or losing,'' Lundqvist said. ``I love 2-1 games. I hate 6-5 games. It's challenging, and you know you have to stay focused.''

Colton Orr, Hollweg's hard-hitting linemate, scored his second NHL goal and first in 18 games in the second period.

Yashin tied it in the waning seconds of the Islanders' eighth power play at 7:37 of the third.

The Islanders cashed in just before the back half of their second 5-on-3 advantage ran out. They were up two men for only 14 seconds this time, following one that lasted 1:32 in the middle frame.

``We had enough shots to score a few more goals,'' Yashin said. ``Maybe we need to be more hungry in front of the net.''

The Islanders won the first four matchups this season before dropping the next three. The teams will meet once more on April 3, again on Long Island.

``We had a lot of chances on the power play, we just kept shooting it into (Lundqvist's) pads,'' Islanders forward Mike Sillinger said. ``It's a point gained. There's no question we needed two, but a point's a point.''

Penguins 5, Bruins 0

Sidney Crosby had two goals and an assist to extend his NHL scoring lead and help the host Penguins tie New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for his fifth shutout of the season and seventh of his career for Pittsburgh, 9-2-1 in its last 12.

Gary Roberts had a goal and two assists.

The Bruins have lost four in a row and seven of nine.

Flames 3, Blackhawks 2

Roman Hamrlik scored off a faceoff with 6:11 left in the third period to snap a tie.

Kristian Huselius and Stephane Yelle also scored for visiting Calgary, which won its third straight.

Radim Vrbata and Denis Arkhipov scored for the Blackhawks, losers of five consecutive.

Blue Jackets 4, Blues 1

At Columbus, Ohio, Fredrik Modin scored his 20th goal of the season _ and 400th point of his career _ for the Blue Jackets.

Manny Malhotra added a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, who got 25 saves from Fredrik Norrena in their third straight win. Derrick Walser and Geoff Platt also scored, and Jason Chimera had three assists.

Doug Weight scored for St. Louis, which has lost three of four.

Avalanche 5, Canucks 4, SO

At Vancouver, British Columbia, Brett McLean netted the only shootout goal after scoring twice in regulation to keep Colorado's playoff hopes alive.

Joe Sakic tied the game with his second goal midway through the third period, and the Avalanche stayed five points behind Calgary for the eighth and final playoff spot with two games left against the Flames.

Sakic moved into a tie with former teammate Ray Bourque for ninth on the career points list with 1,579, and into a 15th-place tie with Dino Ciccarelli on the career goal list with 610.

Taylor Pyatt had two goals, and Daniel Sedin and Jeff Cowan also scored for the Canucks, who lost for the first time in five games and failed to clinch a playoff spot.