NEW YORK (AP) — When you have only 10 wins all season, every one is big. So don't ask the New York Islanders to rank them.
Whether the moment struck them in the immediate aftermath of a 5-3 victory over the rival New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Islanders weren't letting on. They were just happy to come away with a regulation win on Friday night.
"I don't think we had won too many games overall," said forward Michael Grabner, who scored two goals. "We've got to work ourselves back into the playoff picture. Today was a good start, but tomorrow is another test."
The Islanders (10-19-7) will host the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. New York is still a ways away from the playoff race, but it closed within seven points of the sliding Rangers (16-18-2).
Thomas Vanek snapped a tie with a power-play goal early in the third period for the Islanders, who earned their first regulation victory in over a month.
Vanek scored during a two-man advantage at 1:18 of the third to give the Islanders their second win in 15 games and first in regulation since Nov. 12 against Nashville. They were 2-10-4 since then, including losses after regulation in their previous two.
The one that really stung was a home defeat against Tampa Bay on Tuesday in which they blew a late 2-0 lead and were beaten in a shootout.
"We've lost some heartbreakers, there is no doubt about it," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "For them to come into this building, on this stage — it's a big win for us."
Cal Clutterbuck scored a short-handed, penalty-shot goal, and Grabner added a short-handed tally in the first period. Defenseman Brian Strait scored in the second, and Grabner added an empty-netter with 50.3 seconds left for the Islanders, who scored as many as four goals for the first time in 15 games.
"It's good. We scored more than two goals," Capuano said. "It's been a long time."
Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves for the win.
The Rangers got goals from Benoit Pouliot, Derek Dorsett and Derek Stepan, but Henrik Lundqvist stopped only 15 of 19 shots as New York fell to 1-4-2 on its team-record, nine-game homestand.
"This was definitely a frustrating game. There is no question we beat ourselves," Lundqvist said. "We kept making some simple mistakes, and I was not there to clean it up."
The Rangers tied it 2-2 just three minutes into the second when Dorsett's shot from the side boards hit Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey in front and caromed in.
The Rangers then grabbed their first lead, but not before Grabner almost scored his second short-handed goal. His drive struck the crossbar.