After every game of the 2011-12 season, each Rangers player will be assigned a letter grade based on his individual performance, impact on the game and outlook going forward.
Let’s take a look at the grades.
Henrik Lundqist was the Rangers best player for most of the game, making one sensational stop after another, including a diving save on John Tavares in the second period that may have been his best of the season.
His rebound control was excellent and he was particularly tough in the crease during a late scramble as the Islanders tried to tie the game. He was probably the main reason the Rangers were able to fight off a hard-charging Islanders team, despite some inexcusable plays made outside the crease.
Over the course of his last five games—all wins—Lundqvist has only allowed nine goals and has seen his Goals Against Average creep down closer to 2.00 and his Save Percentage vault over 93 percent.
Hank has been on his game of late, but the Forum in Montreal has seen some of his worst career performances. If I am John Tortorella I sit Lundqvist down and give him the weekend to rest.
Eminger got hit hard into the boards behind his own net early in the second period and proceeded to take a dumb retaliation penalty to give the Islanders their first power play of the game.
As undisciplined as the penalty may have been, however, that play seemed to give Eminger a snarl he carried with him the rest of the game.
Less than two minutes after exiting the penalty box, Eminger gave the Rangers the lead after he redirected a pass from Ryan Callahan through the legs of Evgeni Nabokov. Say what you will about Eminger's limitations on the offensive end, but that pinch was well-timed and executed to perfection.
Eminger made the most of his 10 minutes of ice time, as he recorded a goal, a penalty and was also on the ice for Richards' game-winning goal late in the third period.
With Girardi starting to struggle under the weight of heavy minutes, do not be surprised to see Eminger's ice time increase going forward.
After inexplicably beginning the game centering the third line, Richards was moved back between Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky midway through the first period. That trio was responsible for three of the four Rangers goals and generated offensive scoring chances all night.
Richards himself registered four shots on goal and rung a slap shot off the goal post before eventually putting a clutch, game-winning blast past Evgeni Nabokov late in the third period to give the Rangers the lead.
Perhaps frustrated by the team's inability to create on an extended five-on-three power play opportunity, Richards began firing shots from everywhere in the latter half of the game, a tactic that paid dividends for the team and put the Broadway Hat back on the head of its original owner.
From the massive open-ice body check he threw early on in the first period all the way through to his empty net snipe as time expired in the third period, Ryan Callahan was an absolute beast against the Islanders.
He led all Rangers forwards in ice time, dished out five hits and, once reunited with Brad Richards and Brandon Dubinsky, sustained offensive pressure to the tune of a plus-three rating.
Callahan's assist on the Eminger goal was not only a ridiculously impressive feed from a tough angle, but it also came at a time when the Islanders had weathered the Rangers' early surge and seemed to be on the verge of cashing in against Lundqvist.
This winning streak the Rangers are currently on is bound to come to an end, but Callahan is sure as heck doing everything he can to prevent that from happening.
Very quietly, the Michael Sauer/Michael Del Zotto defensive pairing has outplayed the Dan Girardi/Ryan McDonagh pairing over the past week or so.
Sauer was about as flawless defensively as you can ask for last night and managed to throw in an assist on the Rangers first goal.
The play of the night, however, came when Henrik Lundqvist inexplicably vacated his net in an attempt to clear the puck away from an oncoming Islander forward. After misplaying the puck into the corner, the Islanders managed to work the puck to the front of the net for a shot and an easy goal, if not for the left skate of Sauer.
Later in the game, Sauer inadvertently (maybe) bowled over Evgeni Nabokov trying to crash the net on an offensive rush.
Saved a goal, recorded a point and knocked out the other team's goaltender in the process—probably Sauer's best all-around game of the season.
Sean Avery is the NHL's public enemy number one and that fact reared its ugly head again last night. Avery was called for a ridiculous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after coercing Mike Mottau into dropping the gloves, a smart play that should have resulted in a Rangers power play.
No worries, Avery proceeded to take on Mottau for real just seconds after they were released from the box.
Even with all the penalties, Avery still managed to earn double-digit ice time, and rewarded the trust of Coach John Tortorella with a few good scoring chances and a goal to give the Rangers the lead in the first period.
The Rangers' prodigal son has returned with two goals in five games and has made his presence felt in a big way.
Despite not putting any points on the board for the second game in a row, I thought the GAS line was the Rangers' most effective trio in the offensive zone. Artem Anisimov specifically seemed to have an extra spring in his step and was the Rangers most aggressive forward in the first part of the game.
Anisimov took over for Derek Stepan as Marian Gaborik's primary distributor, finding him for three or four quality scoring chances, all of which could have resulted in points.
Anisimov's game was nearly flawless until he took a careless high-sticking penalty in the offensive zone that led directly to the Islanders second goal.
He quickly realized his mistake and was visibly displeased with himself, but he needs to be smarter and more disciplined at that stage of a tight game.
This was supposed to be the game that Brandon Dubinsky would erupt. After lifting the monkey off his back by scoring his first goal of the season against Carolina, I was convinced Dubinsky would throw a few points on the board against the Islanders.
Despite playing 20 minutes, however, he remained relatively quiet until crunch time late in the third period.
With the game tied 2-2 and the team's winning streak on the line, Dubinsky made a fantastic play at the Islanders blue line to force an offensive zone turnover. Dubinsky, with his head up, redirected the puck to an open Brad Richards for a goal and, in essence, the win.
Hopefully that play becomes an additional confidence booster for a guy trying to work his way up from a poor start.
Last night was the first time that I saw the Rangers primarily feature Michael Del Zotto—not Brad Richards—as the power play quarterback. I have to say, I really like what I am seeing.
Del Zotto appears to be playing with a level of composure that has eclipsed anything we have seen from him in his short career.
Del Zotto played another solid defensive game, blocking four shots and keeping Islanders shooters on the perimeter for most of the night. He has not scored in his last three games, but his plus/minus rating and his confidence continue to sky rocket.
Del Zotto is playing fearless and aggressive, looking like a guy who knows he has secured his spot on this team.
In the first 50 minutes of last night's game Marian Gaborik was about as invisible as we have seen him all season. Having said that, he still managed to record five shots on goal and was the Rangers' most dangerous forward late in the third period with the game on the line.
Limited by a tightly-packed Islanders defense, Gaborik seemed to be having trouble finding open spots on the ice with which to work his magic. With Derek Stepan off his game slightly as well, Gaborik rarely found the puck on his stick with a chance to score.
Strangely enough, Gaborik has failed to record a point in his last two games despite the Rangers racking up nine goals as a team in that time.
I am not too worried, as this scoreless streak appears to be more of a blip on the radar than a bothersome trend.
There is no doubt in my mind that Brandon Prust is hurting, and hurting bad. Relegated to fourth line duty, Prust played under six minutes and was for the most part ineffective.
His own poor play, however, did not stop Prust from impacting the game, as he came to the defense of Steve Eminger after Eminger was slammed into the boards cleanly behind is own net.
Eminger's retaliation resulted in an Islanders power play, but not before Prurst came charging in to drop the gloves with the imposing Matt Martin.
You have to wonder how long Prust can continue to lace them up in the short term. "It's just pain," but that pain appears to be hampering Prust in a big way.
I thought Brian Boyle played one his best games of the season against the Islanders last night. He was strong on the puck and responsible in the defensive zone.
Boyle now has points in two straight games and seems to be slowly crawling out his early season slump. If he can continue to throw the body around and get the puck to the net, he can hopefully turn into something close to his 2010-11 form.
With the success and chemistry on the top two lines, Boyle is going to have to figure out how to make things work with Sean Avery, Ruslan Fedotenko or whatever other grinder Tortorella sticks on the third line on a given night.
Jeff Woywitka recorded an assist and a plus-two against the Islanders, so I feel obligated to bump up his grade, but I continue to believe that he is more of a detriment to this team than an asset.
His skating ability is poor, his offensive game is non-existent and up to this point has yet to earn the trust of Coach John Tortorella.
Eight minutes of ice time is unacceptable for a defenseman. I think Eminger has proven his worth to this team, but has been held back by the slow-footed Woywitka.
While I agree that the lineup should remain consistent as long as this team keeps winning, I would like to see Woywitka throw the body around and play more aggressively as to not spend so much time chasing the puck in the defensive zone.
I thought that the Rangers were the dominant team for the first 10 minutes of the game and Derek Stepan was a big reason why.
Stepan's first three or four shifts resulted in a few high-quality scoring chances, not the least of which was an accurate hard shot from right out in front of the Islanders net that was skillfully turned away by Evgeni Nabokov.
After the first period, however, Stepan began to look more like the tentative player from the latter half of last season. It was Artem Anisimov who took over as the puck carrier on the GAS line while Stepan failed to register a shot or much in the form of scoring chances.
Stepan is not a physical player, nor does he excel defensively. He is first and foremost a playmaker and needs to bring his offensive game on a nightly basis.
Last night seemed like a night off and was hopefully just a blip in an otherwise promising sophomore campaign.
Ruslan Fedotenko did not do much against the Islanders, which is why it was surprising to see that he garnered over 18 minutes of ice time.
After a decent start to the game in which Fedotenko played well on a line with Brad Richards and Sean Avery and was later on the ice for the Rangers first goal, he became mostly a non-factor throughout the remainder of the game.
In what was another typical game for Fedotenko (not good, not bad), Rangers fans have to wonder how long a guy with limited production ability can survive in this lineup.
You have to wonder if maybe Dan Girardi needs a game or two off. He looked tired out there against the Islanders and was completely off his game, turning the puck over in the defensive zone more times than I could count.
In the third period, with the Islanders on a power play, Matt Moulson shook free of an oblivious Girardi for an easy tap-in goal.
Girardi has been the Rangers' best player all season, but last night he looked very pedestrian. He was on the ice for both Islander goals and failed to generate much on the offensive end.
I am not going to bury him for this one performance as he still racked up over 27 minutes of ice time and four blocked shots, but anyone can clearly see that the workhorse is beginning to show some fatigue.
For the first time this season, Ryan McDonagh fell victim to poor play by his defensive partner. Not to excuse McDonagh's poor game, who was on the ice for both Islanders goals, but the defensive pair appeared to be slightly off throughout the entire night in all three areas of the ice.
Like Girardi, McDonagh poured in another 27-plus minute game, but still managed to avoid the disastrous defensive zone turnovers that plagued No. 5 throughout the course of the game.
I would have liked to have seen Andre Deveaux become a little more involved in last night's game, especially considering the physicality and tenacity with which it was played.
In a game against a rival, Deveaux should have immediately looked to drop the gloves or, at the very least, throw his weight around on the offensive zone fore-check. I saw neither from the big guy, although his limited ice time may have been a contributing factor to his ineffectiveness.
I noticed Erik Christensen once in last night's game—when he completely whiffed on an opportunity from the side of the net on the Rangers' extended five-on-three power play opportunity.
He was a complete non-factor during even-strength play and has failed to build upon his two multi-point games on the most recent six-game home stand.