Andrew Ladd's two-goal night came at a perfect time for the islanders, but it wouldn't have been possible without the hard work of Stephen Gionta.
Six-and-a-half minutes into the second period, Gionta forced Marc Staal into a turnover behind the net, gained possession, and quickly sent a centering feed to Ladd who flicked a quick wrister past Henrik Lundqvist to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
For Gionta, it was his third point (all assists) in his seventh game this season
"Obviously, against the Rangers, those games are not hard to get up for," Gionta told reporters after the game. "On top of that, there are the stakes this late in the season. We need every point we can get."
When the Islanders signed Gionta to a two-way deal in the offseason, I bet none of you thought he'd be playing an integral role in a game this big. But injuries have forced Doug Weight to lean on the veteran, and it's hard to argue with 10-and-a-half minutes he played on Thursday.
The impressive forecheck he displayed on Ladd's goal was all hustle, and was evidence of the urgency Gionta spoke of after the game. The Isles had built up major momentum after Anders Lee tied the game early in the second, but they had yet to cash in. Crashing the boards, with his team changing, and forcing Staal into that turnover was the opening the Islanders needed. And when Ladd buried that goal, it seemed to turn the game on its head completely.
Once Cal Clutterbuck gets healthy, I'd imagine we won't see a lot of Gionta. But for a depth signing brought in here simply to help keep the team afloat, I think he's done a really serviceable job, and he reaped the rewards on Thursday with a huge point.