<
>

New York rivalry lopsided lately

1/13/2004

NEW YORK (AP) -- No matter where you look, the New York Rangers
have the upper hand over the rival Islanders.

Whether it's the overall series, the season series or the
current standings, the Rangers are in front.

Tom Poti had a goal and assist, and defense partner Brian Leetch
set up two scores to lead the Rangers to their fourth straight
victory over the Islanders, 4-1 Tuesday night.

Alex Kovalev and Vladimir Malakhov added insurance goals in the
third period and Eric Lindros also scored to help the Rangers
stretch their unbeaten streak over the Islanders to 6-0-2 -- 4-0
this season.

That nudged the Rangers from 10th place in the Eastern
Conference to eighth -- one point ahead of the Islanders in the race
for the playoffs.

"We wish we played more games against those guys," forward
Petr Nedved said. "We've had their number."

They have all their numbers, including an 87-84-19 edge in the
series that began in 1972. Until last month, the Rangers hadn't
been ahead in this series since March 17, 1990.

In their four victories this season, the Rangers have outscored
the Islanders 15-8.

"We talked about it over and over and over," Islanders captain
Michael Peca said. "They were behind us in the standings. We
talked about how we could beat these guys."

But they didn't, and they were largely to blame. The Rangers
were handed eight power plays and scored on a season-high three.

"They're a big skilled team," said Rick DiPietro, who stopped
27 shots. "We talked about staying away from penalties, but
there's a lot of emotion in these games. Everybody is so jacked
up."

Peca got away with an elbow to the face of Nedved, but was
whistled for the same infraction against Poti.

"I just told him what goes around comes around ... summer
hockey, who knows," Nedved said, laughing.

Mike Dunham made 18 saves to improve to 8-2-2 against the
Islanders.

DiPietro was unable to put in a perfect performance as he did
Saturday when he made 27 saves against the Rangers in relief of
Garth Snow.

Snow, who allowed three goals on seven shots in the 3-2 loss,
didn't play for the second time in three games after appearing in
15 straight.

Jason Blake gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead.

Poti snapped a 1-1 tie 8:59 into the second period, easily
deflecting in a pass from Leetch down low.

Kovalev made it 3-1 at 6:41 of the third when he converted Bobby
Holik's rebound in front after getting his helmet knocked off
behind the net.

For the first time this season the Islanders didn't fall into a
big hole against the Rangers. In three previous games, the
Islanders trailed 3-0 twice and 2-0 and 4-1 in another.

With Islanders forward Derek Bekar in the penalty box, teammate
Blake used speed and grit to score his second short-handed goal
this season.

Blake raced up ice and beat Leetch and Mark Messier to a
clearing attempt, getting a shot off. Dunham deflected it but Blake
again beat Leetch and Messier to the rebound.

Blake spun around and put a shot past Dunham at 9:54 of the
first. A loud cheer broke out among the large contingent of
Islanders fans.

Lindros got the Rangers even before Bekar's penalty expired.
Lindros won a faceoff back to Poti, who traded passes with Leetch
along the blue line. Poti fired the return feed, and Lindros,
stationed at the right post, lifted his stick near his shoulder and
tipped the puck past DiPietro with 8:52 left in the first.

The hulking forward, who recently rediscovered his speed,
physical play and scoring touch, netted his third goal in four
games. After Lindros' one goal, one assist performance Saturday,
coach Glen Sather called him the team's best player the past month.

"We've just got to keep moving along," Lindros said. "We've
just got to dig our heels in a little bit further and harder and
keep progressing as a team."

Malakhov scored a power-play goal with 3:07 left, with an assist
from Kovalev, to make it 4-1.

Game notes
The last time the Rangers had as many as two power-play
goals was Dec. 18 against the Islanders. ... Islanders 38-year-old
C Cliff Ronning, signed Friday, made his debut with the team five
minutes in.