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Rangers end five-game skid by finally beating Islanders at Barclays

Off the schneid, and just in time.

The Rangers managed to pick up their first win ever at Barclays Center, 2-1 over the Islanders on Saturday afternoon. It was the eighth game the teams have played at the arena since the Islanders moved from the Nassau Coliseum in 2015-16.

Considering the Islanders could move back to the Coliseum full-time next season while waiting for their new arena at Belmont Park to be ready for the 2021-22 campaign, this might have been the last meeting between these two teams as intracity rivals.

“Sometimes you get an arena bugaboo. We had one,” long-tenured Ranger Marc Staal said. “So it was good to pull one out, for sure.”

There also was a substantial weight lifted off the Rangers (18-19-7), who were in the midst of a five-game losing streak during which they couldn’t get out of their own way. The skid included a 4-3 loss to the Islanders (26-15-4) in the first leg of this home-and-home on Thursday at the Garden, when Josh Bailey scored the winner with 1:26 left in regulation.

The gasps from the Rangers’ bench were audible when goalie Alex Georgiev made a glove save — his last of 24 in the game — through traffic on Ryan Pulock to preserve the 2-1 lead with just 13.9 seconds remaining.

Filip Chytil
Filip ChytilAnthony J. Causi

“I thought [Geogeiv] played very well,” coach David Quinn said. “Made a huge save … That really would have crushed us in so many ways. He stood tall.”

The Rangers have gotten crushed in many different ways since Thanksgiving, when their downturn started and the season began to slip away from them. All the bounces were seemingly going against them, but they got a good one when a Tony DeAngelo centering feed hit off the skate of Mats Zuccarello and went in for a 2-1 lead with 5:05 left in regulation.

For a game that was tight — if not downright uneventful — that was the difference.

“We battled,” said Mika Zibanejad, who assisted on the game-winner by winning the draw. “We were determined to get a win here, finally. I thought we played right from minute one.”

The Rangers’ biggest battle had to come on the penalty kill, on which they had been struggling of late. They managed, however, to stop all six Islanders power plays, including 1:24 of a 5-on-3 late in the second period. The lone Islanders goal came when Anthony Beauvillier was able to jam one in the moment after a power play expired at 8:40 of the second period, giving his team a 1-0 lead.

But the lead lasted just under six minutes, as Rangers rookie Filip Chytil scored his first goal since Dec. 18 — and just his second goal since Thanksgiving — finishing a nice feed from Boo Nieves at 14:09.

“We needed the win bad,” Georgiev said. “You could see that when we came out hard, wanted to battle so hard. So we deserve it.”

There had been a handful of directives from Quinn on what he wanted his team to do better as they attempted to crawl out of this hole: shoot more and defend better as two obvious examples. But more than anything, he wanted them to battle harder. Even though this rivalry has cooled to the point at which it is unrecognizable from that of years past, the Rangers still managed to get up for this win they desperately needed.

“I don’t love the word desperate. I’ll say urgent,” Quinn said. “There was certainly an urgency to where we are in the season and the way things have gone. We’ve been getting more urgent with every mounting loss.”

It helped that there was another motivation, to not leave Barclays as a place where they had never won.

“We knew,” Staal said. “Obviously it’s been a long time, haven’t been able to find one in this building. At least we got one if they move next year. At least we can say we pulled one out.”

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