NEW YORK (AP)Andrew Copp scored three goals in the first period, Chris Kreider got his 51st of the season, and the New York Rangers beat the rival Islanders 6-3 Thursday night.
Ryan Strome had a goal and an assist, Ryan Reaves also scored, Artemi Panarin had four assists and Adam Fox added three to help the Rangers win their fourth straight and seventh in their last eight. Alexandar Georgiev had 26 saves to win his seventh straight start and improve to 14-9-2.
”Good night and got to keep rolling for the playoffs,” Strome said. ”I think its just a good representation of playing the right way. … There’s been no selfish play at all. You see guys get rewarded. It’s a testament to our team.”
The Rangers clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and remained tied with Carolina atop the Metropolitan Division with 108 points. Carolina, which holds the tiebreaker with one more regulation win, beat Winnipeg 4-2.
”We want to play in front of our fans,” Strome said. ”I think we’re more comfortable at home, just with that energy the crowd can provide. We’ve done a great job on the road this year, but anytime you get to play at home at MSG is pretty special. Good accomplishment – one of the team accolades that’s important.”
Brock Nelson scored twice, Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Semyon Varlamov finished with 17 saves for the Islanders, who are 3-5-1 in their last nine. They lost for just the third time in their last 11 at home (8-2-1).
”Some guys cheated the game, plain and simple,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. ”We didn’t play that poorly. You’re going to make mistakes, it is a game of mistakes, but if you make a mistake you have to have the urgency and the desire to clean up your own mistakes. … We didn’t do a good job.”
The Islanders trailed 3-0 after 20 minutes, but Nelson got them on the scoreboard in the opening minute of the second period. Bailey got the rebound of a shot by Zdeno Chara and sent to Nelson trailing the play and he beat Georgiev at 37 seconds.
It ended the Rangers’ shutout streak at 200 minutes, 43 seconds. They were coming off three consecutive shutouts – 4-0 at Philadelphia on April 13, 4-0 vs Detroit last Saturday, and 3-0 vs Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Kreider restored the Rangers’ three-goal lead with 2:45 left in the middle period, extending his franchise record with his 26th on the power play.
”We talk all the time about going to the net,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Opportunities open up when you drive the net.”
Strome made it 5-1 with 52.1 seconds left in the period as he got a centering pass from Panarin and beat Varlamov for his career-high 20th.
”You don’t want to set personal accomplishments,” Strome said. ”It’s nice to finally get there. I was stuck on 18, 19 a few times.”
Nelson got his second of the night to make it a three-goal game again at 2:06 of the third with a shot that hit Georgiev and bounced up and in for his team leading 36th.
Alexis Lafreniere found Reaves on the right side during a Rangers rush for his fourth of the season with 7:07 left.
Bailey scored from the left side off pass from Noah Dobson for his 12th just 29 seconds later to make it 6-3.
Copp got the Rangers on the scoreboard first with his 200th career point 3:43 into the game as he got a pass from Panarin and fired a one-timer from the right circle past Varlamov.
Copp made it 2-0 at 7:48 as he got a pass from Panarin again and lifted it over Varlamov’s pad from a sharp angle between the right circle and the goal line.
Copp completed his second career hat trick with 1:47 left in the first period. After a give-and-go with Strome, he tapped the return pass past Varlamov from the left side for his 21st of the season. It gave him eight goals and 18 points in 15 games since being acquired from Winnipeg.
Panarin now has 74 assists this season, a record for a Rangers forward – topping the 72 Wayne Gretzky had in 1996-97. The only players in franchise history to have more were defensemen Brian Leetch (80 in `91-92) and Sergei Zubov (77 in ’93-94). Panarin also has a career high with 96 points.
”He was outstanding,” Gallant said. ”We know what he’s going to do. He competes and plays hard. I love the way he’s playing. He’s a hell of a player.”
Kreider now has the third-most goals in a season in franchise history, breaking a tie with Vic Hadfield (50 in `71-72). Jaromir Jagr holds the team record with 54 in 2005-06 and Adam Graves is second with 52 in ’93-94.
The Rangers got their 25th road win, tied for the third-most in franchise history. They have at least 25 wins both at home and on the road for just the second time – first since 2014-15.
The Islanders were without forwards Anthony Beauvillier (day to day with an upper body injury) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (COVID-19 protocols). Pageau is the 20th Islanders player to be on the list this season.
Rangers: At Boston on Saturday before finishing regular season with three at home.
Islanders: At Buffalo on Saturday.
Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports