Graves' 40-foot slap shot with 54.7 seconds left in the extra period gave the New York Rangers a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday and two precious points in the playoff race.
"It's a big win for us," Graves said, "but this was like a normal Ranger-Islander game. It's always special."
"For an 18-year old kid in his first year to get eight goals with limited ice time, that's pretty good," Rangers coach John Muckler said.
The Islanders killed their next two penalties later in the period, including a 33-second stretch when they skated with two men down. But when Barry Richter took a slashing penalty early in the second, the Rangers capitalized for a 2-0 lead as Kevin Stevens scored on a rebound at 2:49.
Playing before only their third sellout crowd of the season, the Islanders cut the Rangers' lead to one goal at 14:39 when Mariusz Czerkawski beat Dan Cloutier from the left circle.
The Islanders dominated the third period, outshooting the Rangers 8-2, and tied the score at 5:19 when Zigmund Palffy beat Cloutier with a shot from the high slot while off-balance. Palffy had a seven-game point-scoring streak stopped on Thursday in a 2-1 loss to Toronto, and now has 16 points in his last 12 games (8-8-16).
The Rangers didn't get a shot until 4:10 remained, and headed to overtime lucky to be tied.
Both teams had two shots in overtime until Graves came down the left wing and ripped a blast that beat Tommy Salo at 4:05. It was Graves' team-leading 33rd goal, and second overtime winner against the Islanders.
"I had some room down the left side," Graves said. "I ust let it go, and fortunately, it went in."
Islanders coach Bill Stewart thought it was a bad goal.
"It's just one of those shots," Stewart said. "I'm sure (Salo) would like to have that one back."
Salo said the shot hit him.
"It touched me a little bit between the shoulder and my glove," Salo said. "I couldn't get my glove up any faster. It was a bomb."
The win moved the Rangers within two points of the Boston Bruins for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, although the Bruins have a game in hand.
"Every game is like a playoff game for us now," Stevens said. "We just have to go out and do what we can."
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