Sean Avery yapped from the bench, then picked himself up off the ice after being face-planted into the glass.

All in a night's work for hockey's most-hated player.

Avery returned to the NHL after a three-month exile and started a second stint with the New York Rangers, who topped the New York Islanders 4-2 on Thursday night.

He had his first run-in during the first period after being hit by Blake Comeau in front of the benches, but didn't push back in the skirmish. He delivered hits to defensemen Bruno Gervais and Radek Martinek from behind and absorbed his biggest blow when Trent Hunter smashed him face-first into the glass by the penalty box.

Avery, playing in his first NHL game since Nov. 30, was slow getting to his feet and skated slowly to the scrum in the Rangers zone, but didn't get involved. Hunter was called for boarding and Avery kept his cool, in what is likely his last chance to prove he can behave.

He was banished by the Dallas Stars in December because of crude comments he made about players dating his former girlfriends. Avery was suspended six games by the NHL, but then wasn't welcomed back by the Stars, who had pried him away from the Rangers last summer with a four-year deal.

Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and assist and Chris Drury and Scott Gomez for the second straight game for the Rangers, who improved their hold a playoff spot by earning consecutive wins for the first time since Jan. 20 and 27. New York snapped an 0-7-2 road skid.

Markus Naslund made it 4-2 with 6:36 left in his 1,100th NHL game. New York, which scored 10 goals in two games, took the season series from the Islanders 5-1.

Comeau and defenseman Jack Hillen, with his first NHL goal, answered for the Islanders. They had won two straight, while captain Bill Guerin was in trade limbo, but dropped the first game after he was finally dealt to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Avery, claimed off waivers by the Rangers on Tuesday, wasn't the only newcomer as forward Nik Antropov and defenseman Derek Morris _ acquired before Wednesday's trade deadline also made their debuts. Antropov had an assist.

Avery's first altercation came in the final minute of the opening period when Comeau caught him from behind with a shoulder hit in front of the benches. Comeau followed the hit with another as Avery leaned in, and Zherdev quickly came to his defense as a linesman guided Avery away from the fray.

Avery returned to the bench, right next to the partition that separated the teams, and appeared to be chatting with Comeau and Islanders forward Kyle Okposo who was seated between them.

Zherdev, who earned a roughing penalty along with the Islanders' Trent Hunter, did more damage earlier with his 18th goal. Zherdev picked off Tim Jackman's clearing attempt and snapped a wrist shot from the right-circle dot that beat Yann Danis inside the right post at 8:33.

Comeau got the Islanders even 5:37 into the second period when he drove the net past Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and shoved a backhander that got between Henrik Lundqvist's pads and trickled over the line. It was Comeau's fifth goal of the season and first in 19 games.

Drury, who broke a career-worst drought of 17 straight goal-less games on Saturday, netted his second in two contests to put the Rangers back on top during a power play. Drury let go a shot from inside the blue line got through traffic and Brandon Dubinsky's screen of Danis, to make it 2-1 at 9:41.

Notes:@ Avery was whistled for cross-checking Jeff Tambellini in the third period. ... Comeau's previous goal was scored on Jan. 17 against New Jersey. ... The Islanders recalled forwards Jesse Joensuu and Joel Rechlicz and defensemen Joe Callahan and Andrew MacDonald from Bridgeport (AHL) and had them all in the lineup. Joensuu scored his first NHL goal Monday in his first game. ... The Rangers hadn't scored three goals in consecutive games since the last time they earned back-to-back victories. ... The Rangers were outshot 30-23.

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