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Rangers 4, Islanders 2

April 16, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Alexei Kovalev scored a goal and assisted on two others and rookie goaltender Dan Cloutier stopped 29 shots to lead the New York Rangers to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

Kovalev set up a goal by Adam Graves 2:28 into the game to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Graves beat Islanders goaltender Tommy Salo with a slap shot from the slot for his 22nd.

Kovalev put the Rangers ahead 2-0 with his 22nd goal at 14:36 of the first period. Kovalev one-timed a pass from Wayne Gretzky on a 2-on-1 break.

The Rangers went into a defensive posture after taking the lead, frustrating the Islanders’ attempts to skate through the neutral zone. The Islanders’ best scoring chances came while shorthanded, but Cloutier stopped Zigmund Palffy at the end of the first period and made a spectacular save on Dennis Vaske in the second.

Ulf Samuelsson scored his third with a blast from the left point at 6:02 of the third period for a 3-0 Rangers lead. Palffy scored his 42nd on a power play at 7:29, then added a backhander at 12:17 to make it 3-2.

Gretzky completed the scoring with an empty-net goal at 19:13, his 23rd of the season.

Both teams have already been eliminated from the playoffs. The loss extended the Islanders’ winless streak to four games (0-3-1). The victory was only the second in 13 games for the Rangers (2-10-1).

Brian Leetch returned to the Rangers’ lineup after missing four games with post-concussion symptoms.

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