UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- After playmakers on both sides of the New York-New York backyard brawl were stymied by goalies and goal posts, it was a defensive defenceman who finally broke through to end a playoff-like deadlock.
Dan Girardi gave the visiting Rangers a key 1-0 win Saturday night when he scored his second goal of the season 3:11 into overtime to knock off the Islanders at fired-up Nassau Coliseum.
With both teams on track for the post-season -- although their holds on playoff spots are tenuous -- Girardi took a lead pass from Derick Brassard, raced in on goalie Evgeni Nabokov, and beat him with a rising shot just when a shootout seemed inevitable.
"I drove to the net," said Girardi, who has 31 goals in seven NHL seasons. "He made a great pass. This says a lot about our team, the character of our team.
"The Islanders are a good team. They threw everything they could at us. We were very strong in front of the net."
Henrik Lundqvist and Islanders counterpart Nabokov staged a classic goalie duel that Girardi finished.
"You guys might have had fun watching it, but from a coach's point of view, there are a lot of things we need to work on," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
The Rangers are eighth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, one point behind the Islanders. The Rangers lead ninth-place Winnipeg by two points with seven games remaining -- one more than the Jets. The Islanders have six games remaining, but only one more at home before they finish on a five-game trip they hope will end in their first playoff berth since 2007.
Lundqvist, last season's Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie, finished with 29 saves for his first shutout of the season and 44th in the NHL.
Lundqvist skated the length of the ice after Girardi's goal to join in the celebration with his teammates at the other end.
"That was a long skate, but it was well worth it," he said. "They played hard. It was an exciting game to play in. It was fun, a lot of fun. Like a playoff game for sure.
"It was a relief and exciting to see the puck go in."
Nabokov stopped 19 shots in taking the tough-luck loss. While the Islanders wanted two points, getting one could go a long way toward giving them a return to the playoffs.
"It's tough to swallow that pill, to play the way we played and lose in overtime, but there's a lot of positives," he said. "Both teams were battling and I think both teams deserve a point.
"This was exactly a playoff game."
-- The Associated Press