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Halak, Islanders beat rival Rangers again, 4-1

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Jaroslav Halak stopped 40 shots, falling 8.1 seconds short of his second consecutive shutout of the New York Rangers, and the Islanders beat their biggest rivals 4-1 on Tuesday night in their return from the NHL All-Star break.

New York has won all three meetings this season with the Rangers, taking the first two at Madison Square Garden and outscoring them 13-4 overall. Halak beat them 3-0 on Jan. 13.

Henrik Lundqvist was also sharp for the Rangers in making 34 saves, but spent the third period hearing derisive chants of his name and others proclaiming, “You can’t beat us!”

Mikhail Grabovski returned from injury and scored in the first period, Matt Martin doubled the lead in the second, and Ryan Strome and All-Star John Tavares had goals in the third.

The Islanders didn’t miss a beat in their first game without top-line forward Kyle Okposo, expected to be out six to eight weeks due to an upper-body injury.

Tavares’ 22nd goal came on a two-man power play.

Carl Hagelin spoiled Halak’s shutout bid in the closing seconds.

The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders won for the sixth time in seven games and again cooled off the Rangers. In their last 20 games, the Rangers have lost four times, but two were to Halak, an All-Star in his first season with the Islanders.

Undeterred by a big snowstorm that hit the area Monday, fans of both teams packed the Nassau Coliseum in the first of three remaining regular-season games between the clubs before the Islanders relocate to Brooklyn. Fans chanted support in alternating fashion, giving the old arena a playoff-like feel.

The Islanders took a 1-0 lead with 1:55 left in the first — a period they dominated 17-10 in shots. Only Lundqvist kept the Rangers from being blown out early.

He had virtually no chance on Grabovski’s seventh goal that came at the end of a Harlem Globetrotters-like sequence. After a series of quick passes in tic-tac-toe fashion, Josh Bailey sent a touch feed from the right circle to Grabovski in the slot for his second goal in 13 games.

Grabovski sat out the previous five because of a lower-body injury before taking Okposo’s spot on the top line with Tavares and Bailey.

Lundqvist bailed out his sloppy teammates, who turned over the puck six times in the first period. He turned aside Michael Grabner early after a turnover by defenseman Kevin Klein, and then stopped Frans Nielsen on a breakaway after a faceoff in the Islanders end produced a long stretch pass by defenseman Nick Leddy.

One drive by Martin that Lundqvist smothered had the goalie looking behind him to make sure the puck didn’t slip through.

Martin got his goal 4:11 into the second period, 1:12 after the Islanders’ first power play expired. Martin sent a pass from behind the Rangers net up to Casey Cizikas for a shot Lundqvist stopped. Cal Clutterbuck nudged the rebound to Martin, who scored his seventh inside the right post.

The Rangers did little with their first power play moments later, and again struggled with the Islanders’ aggressive forecheck. The Rangers outshot the Islanders 18-11 in the second to forge a 28-all tie through 40 minutes, yet still couldn’t solve Halak.

NOTES: The Islanders placed Okposo and LW Eric Boulton (lower body) on the injured list. Okposo is retroactive to Jan. 19, and Boulton is retroactive to Jan. 17. … Rangers RW Lee Stempniak and D John Moore were both healthy scratches, replaced by LW Tanner Glass and D Matt Hunwick.

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