Rangers down Isles in big divisional battle

Uniondale, NY ( - Cam Talbot stopped 29 shots and Rick Nash scored the winner early in the third as the New York Rangers defeated the New York Islanders, 2-1, in a pivotal Metropolitan Division battle.

The win moved the Rangers to one point back of the Islanders for the top spot in the division, and the Rangers still have four games in hand on the Islanders.

"We knew coming in there that if we could close the gap it would be big," said Talbot. "We have some games in hand here so hopefully we can gain some more ground on them."

Kevin Hayes scored the other goal for the Rangers, who have won three of their last four.

Anders Lee had the only goal of the game for the Islanders, who have lost four of their last six games.

"It's a tight race towards the end of the year here," said Lee. "It's tough when you lose a game to a division opponent, especially one that is so close."

With the score tied in the third, Nash skated in at the right point and attempted a slap pass. The puck, though, hit off the skate of the Islanders' Ryan Strome and went in at 2:50 for a 2-1 lead.

Talbot stopped all seven shots he faced in the third, helping the Rangers kill off a pair of Islanders power plays to hang on for the win.

The Islanders drew first blood as Lee was fighting for the puck behind the net and from the right side he was able to sneak it past Talbot at 9:35 of the first.

The Rangers tied the game at 11:35 of the second as Hayes was sprung on a short break, fighting off a defender before sweeping the puck in for his 13th of the season.

Game Notes

The Rangers play in Washington on Wednesday ... The Islanders host Ottawa on Friday ... Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh played in his 300th game ... Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy was scratched from the lineup due to an undisclosed injury, snapping his consecutive games streak at 320 ... Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo returned to play on Tuesday as he had missed 22 games following surgery for a detached retina.