NEW YORK - No matter where you look, the New York Rangers have the upper hand over the rival Islanders.
Whether it’s the overall series, the season series or the current standings, the Rangers are in front.
Tom Poti had a goal and assist, and defense partner Brian Leetch set up two scores to lead the Rangers to their fourth straight victory over the Islanders, 4-1 Tuesday night.
Alex Kovalev and Vladimir Malakhov added insurance goals in the third period and Eric Lindros also scored to help the Rangers stretch their unbeaten streak over the Islanders to 6-0-2 — 4-0 this season.
“We wish we played more games against those guys,” forward Petr Nedved said. “We’ve had their number.”
They have all their numbers, including an 87-84-19 edge in the series that began in 1972. Until last month, the Rangers hadn’t been ahead in this series since March 17, 1990.
In their four victories this season, the Rangers have outscored the Islanders 15-8.
“We talked about it over and over and over,” Islanders captain Michael Peca said. “They were behind us in the standings. We talked about how we could beat these guys.”
But they didn’t, and they were largely to blame. The Rangers were handed eight power plays and scored on a season-high three.
“They’re a big skilled team,” said Rick DiPietro, who stopped 27 shots. “We talked about staying away from penalties, but there’s a lot of emotion in these games. Everybody is so jacked up.”
Peca got away with an elbow to the face of Nedved, but was whistled for the same infraction against Poti.
“I just told him what goes around comes around ... summer hockey, who knows,” Nedved said, laughing.
Mike Dunham made 18 saves to improve to 8-2-2 against the Islanders.
DiPietro was unable to put in a perfect performance as he did Saturday when he made 27 saves against the Rangers in relief of Garth Snow.
Snow, who allowed three goals on seven shots in the 3-2 loss, didn’t play for the second time in three games after appearing in 15 straight.
Jason Blake gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
Poti snapped a 1-1 tie 8:59 into the second period, easily deflecting in a pass from Leetch down low.
Kovalev made it 3-1 at 6:41 of the third when he converted Bobby Holik’s rebound in front after getting his helmet knocked off behind the net.
For the first time this season the Islanders didn’t fall into a big hole against the Rangers. In three previous games, the Islanders trailed 3-0 twice and 2-0 and 4-1 in another.
With Islanders forward Derek Bekar in the penalty box, teammate Blake used speed and grit to score his second short-handed goal this season.
Blake raced up ice and beat Leetch and Mark Messier to a clearing attempt, getting a shot off. Dunham deflected it but Blake again beat Leetch and Messier to the rebound.
Blake spun around and put a shot past Dunham at 9:54 of the first. A loud cheer broke out among the large contingent of Islanders fans.
Lindros got the Rangers even before Bekar’s penalty expired. Lindros won a faceoff back to Poti, who traded passes with Leetch along the blue line. Poti fired the return feed, and Lindros, stationed at the right post, lifted his stick near his shoulder and tipped the puck past DiPietro with 8:52 left in the first.
The hulking forward, who recently rediscovered his speed, physical play and scoring touch, netted his third goal in four games. After Lindros’ one goal, one assist performance Saturday, coach Glen Sather called him the team’s best player the past month.
“We’ve just got to keep moving along,” Lindros said. “We’ve just got to dig our heels in a little bit further and harder and keep progressing as a team.”
Malakhov scored a power-play goal with 3:07 left, with an assist from Kovalev, to make it 4-1.
Notes: The last time the Rangers had as many as two power-play goals was Dec. 18 against the Islanders. ... Islanders 38-year-old C Cliff Ronning, signed Friday, made his debut with the team five minutes in.
PHT: The Penguins' win in Game 4 shoved the Senators to the brink of elimination, but Ottawa has vowed to bring a better effort tonight (Coverage at 6:30 p.m. ET; Live Extra, NBCSN).
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