Islanders 6, Rangers 4
NEW YORK (AP) _ Pat LaFontaine and Mikko Makela each scored two goals to lead the New York Islanders past the struggling New York Rangers - who still finished third in the Patrick Division - 6-4 Sunday night.
The Rangers lost for the second straight night under Phil Esposito, the general manager who fired Michel Bergeron and took over as coach Saturday in Pittsburgh. Boos and derisive chants greeted Esposito in his first appearance at Madison Square Garden since taking over as coach.
The Rangers, who start the playoffs this Wednesday at Pittsburgh, lost for the fifth straight time and 12th time in their last 15 games.
LaFontaine scored both his goals in the first period and Makela scored twice in the second as the Islanders, who started the night with the worst record in the NHL, broke a five-game losing streak against their intra-cityh rivals. The Islanders wound up ahead of only Quebec in the overall standings.
The Islanders took an early 2-0 lead on goals by Dale Henry and LaFontaine 21 seconds apart.
Henry scored on a breakaway at 5:33 after taking a pass at center ice from Randy Wood. LaFontaine scored from in front at 5:54 after taking a passout from Derek King.
The Rangers came back to tie on power-play goals by Tomas Sandstrom and Carey Wilson. Sandstrom scored on a slap shot from the left circle at 9:32 with New York holding a two-man advantage. Wilson made it 2-2 at 10:02 when he scored on a rebound of a shot by Ulf Dahlen.
The Islanders took a 3-2 lead on LaFontaine’s second goal of the game and 45th of the season, a shot from the right circle at 14:01. Makela scored from close range at 6:41 for a 4-2 lead before Guy Lafleur connected from the top of the right circle at 7:43 for the Rangers.
Alan Kerr then scored from in front, batting a loose puck over goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck at 10:59.
Wilson cut the Islanders’ lead to 5-4 when he tipped in a shot from the blue line by Brian Leetch during a power play.
However, Makela restored the Islanders’ two-goal lead on a shot from the slot as he was falling at 17:59. Bob Froese replaced Vanbiesbrouck in goal at this point.
As the game wound down, the Garden fans used an obscene chant directed at Esposito. In the stands, some Rangers fans had hung signs showing their objections to Bergeron’s firing.
″Espo, you fired the best,″ said one sign.
″I’ve taken that kind of stuff before and I’ll probably take it again,″ Esposito said. ″The bottom line is winning. I don’t blame the fans for their reaction. But they don’t know the circumstances. I choose not to talk about it at this time.″
Although the game didn’t mean much in the standings to the Islanders, it had some importance.
″We are not going to lie down for anybody,″ Islanders coach Al Arbour said. ″The guys are playing for pride.
″If they’re going to beat us, the Rangers are going to have to earn it. They didn’t earn it tonight.″
LaFontaine thought it ″was nice to finish on a positive note. We said the last seven games of the season were going to be our Stanley Cup playoffs. We came in tonight 3-3 and came out with a win.″