Rangers rally late for shootout win as Islanders still manage to boost playoff chances

The Rangers can breathe a little easier in their quest for the Presidents’ Trophy.

And the Islanders’ path to the playoffs appears inevitable.

After the Islanders handed them defeat earlier this week, the Rangers took revenge on home ice Saturday afternoon with a 3-2 shootout victory to move three points clear of the Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division and set a franchise record for regular-season wins, with 54, thanks to Vincent Trocheck’s game-winner. 

Brock Nelson (29) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal during the Islanders’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Rangers. Robert Sabo for NY Post

“It’s a very good number,” said Igor Shesterkin, who turned in a 34-save afternoon, plus two more in the shootout to outduel his compatriot, Ilya Sorokin.

But because the Islanders took home a loser point that extended their playoff cushion to three points with two games remaining in their season, this game felt just as successful for the visitors, even as their six-game winning streak was broken.

The Islanders still went into Saturday evening with a chance to clinch a playoff berth if Detroit and Washington lost. Even though both the Red Wings and Capitals won, an Islanders postseason trip appears to be a formality, barring an extraordinary set of events.

“Playoff-style hockey,” Ryan Pulock told The Post. “Came up short in a shootout, but the point should be huge.”

Igor Shesterkin makes a glove save in overtime during the Rangers’ shootout win over the Islanders. Robert Sabo for NY Post

For the home side, breaking out of a funk that featured consecutive losses would require gathering themselves and coming back after coughing up the lead in the second period. Luckily, the Rangers have specialized in such antics this season.

For much of the afternoon, the Blueshirts appeared a step behind at even strength, struggling to stay in the offensive zone for long periods or gain traction against an Islanders bottom six that turned in a superb afternoon.

In the third, the Rangers turned the tide.

The Islanders had a golden chance to grow their lead to two goals with 6:56 to go after Artemi Panarin took down Adam Pelech on a breakaway to give the defenseman a penalty shot.

But Shesterkin’s glove save ensured the game stayed at 2-1 — an exclamation point on an afternoon in which Shesterkin and Sorokin delivered classic performances, Sorokin posting 41 saves.

“There’s probably half-a-dozen key saves that [Shesterkin] made at 2-1 that kept it that way,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said.

Just over 2 ½ minutes after the penalty shot, Panarin’s wrist shot from the top of the left circle beat the Russian netminder at the other end of the ice to equalize the game at two and make good on Shesterkin’s work.

Mika Zibanejad skates down the ice during the first period of the Rangers’ win. Robert Sabo for NY Post

And following a crackling five minutes of three-on-three in which the teams traded chances, culminating in Shesterkin’s glove save on Mathew Barzal with just seven seconds to go, on it went to the skills competition.

That was where Shersterkin got the last laugh, denying Kyle Palmieri and Brock Nelson while Panarin and Trocheck scored for the Rangers in the skills competition.

Just like the match on Long Island on Tuesday, the Islanders had a five-on-five edge early, but bled chances on special teams.

Artemi Panarin celebrates after scoring the first goal of the shootout. Robert Sabo for NY Post

The difference was that instead of doing so on the penalty kill, they did so Saturday on their own power play, leaking a shorthanded goal to Braden Schneider during a stretch of 5:07 at five-on-four to start the second period.

Nelson rectified that in short order with a pair of goals to hand the Islanders a 2-1 lead, but the 9:48 total at five-on-four that the Islanders went without so much as threatening ultimately accounted for the margin in this one.

“We were able to close quickly,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “Didn’t really give them a chance to set up and attack inward, attack downhill. I thought we met the rush of different areas, any time the puck was in question for a possession, I thought we were strong to press out and push on those loose pucks.”

IIlya Sorokin defends the net during the first period of the Islanders’ shootout loss. Robert Sabo for NY Post

With Noah Dobson’s status in question for the end of the regular season and a six-game winning streak broken, the Islanders need to stave off chaos if they are to finish the job. But getting away with a point will, at least for now, quell most of their worries.

As for the Rangers, who dug deep and showed off their resilience yet again, the train is right back on course with one game left until the playoffs.

“I think our team is doing a pretty good job in third periods this year,” Panarin said. “It’s not always worked. But tonight it worked again.

“Never give up.”