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The Rangers Homestand Starts With a Much-Needed Win

New York Rangers Marian Gaborik (10), Brad Richards (19), Brian Boyle (22) and Mats Zuccarello (36) celebrate Richard's goal against New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov in the second period of an NHL hockey game on Sunday, March 11, 2012, in New York. Gaborik, Richards and Boyle all scored during the Rangers' 4-3 win in overtime. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek) The Rangers celebrate a goal last night.

It may seem strange to say this about a team that fell behind on three separate occasions last night, but the Rangers played a game to be proud of in their 4-3 win over the Islanders. After losing three straight games in regulation for the first time all season — and with Pittsburgh just two points behind them in the standings as of last night’s opening face-off — the Rangers badly needed a win as they kicked off their seven-game homestand, and they got it. They generated a handful of quality scoring opportunities, showed off an unusually effective power play, and after getting outscored 8-2 in the third period during that three-game losing streak, tied the game in the third last night before winning it on Marian Gaborik’s goal as the clock wound down in overtime.

It wasn’t a perfect game: That too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in the third period was just awful, and even if one of the goals they allowed was the result of a fluky bounce, it’s never great to fall behind three times in a game. (That’s especially true when the opponent has an offensive weapon like John Tavares — one that’s a threat to extend the lead and make a comeback all the more difficult every time he’s on the ice.) But give the Rangers credit: Even without both Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto, they — to use one of John Tortorella’s favorite phrases — found a way to win. (That said, consider this your daily reminder that this team staying healthy is essential as the season winds down and the playoffs begin. At least Brandon Dubinsky returned to action last night.)

More specifically, credit Brad Richards, who had the type of game we wish he’d have had more often this season. On the Rangers' first goal, Richards carried the puck into the offensive zone on the power play, fired, and scored, tying the game at one and earning Henrik Lundqvist a point. (It’s not quite accurate to say he went coast-to-coast, though, since he shot the puck from the equivalent of Salt Lake City.) A period later, he blasted a shot from the point for his second power play goal of the night. Then, after drawing a penalty in overtime, he assisted on Gaborik’s game-winner, on a night when the Garden crowd decided to start with the “shoot the puck” chants again. (Also on the ice for that overtime goal, by the way, was Mats Zuccarello, up from Connecticut because of injuries. He may not be a long-term solution on the power play, but he’s a creative player who Tortorella praised after the game for his passing.)

The Rangers play every other night on this lengthy homestand, and so while we’ve got Thursday’s game against the surging Penguins circled — might Sidney Crosby play? — first comes tomorrow’s contest against Carolina.

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Photo: Kathy Kmonicek/AP