That plan didn't go so well early.
Nash scored twice in the first period, but the Islanders erased a two-goal deficit for the second successive day and beat the Rangers 5-3 on Tuesday night.
"There was a time during the first period that I was going to probably break that line up," Capuano said, "but I wanted to see how they handled it. I thought they responded as the game went on and did a good job."
Nash didn't do any more damage, Vanek scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 4:38 left, Tavares had three assists, and Okposo added two as the Islanders won for the ninth time in 11 road games.
The Islanders have won two of the first three meetings with the Rangers. The teams will play twice more in the next 10 days, including outdoors at Yankee Stadium.
"Division games are huge this time of year. It's nice to beat these guys," Tavares said. "They got those two early goals, but I think for the most part we were the better team. We did a good job ... and finished off the game. Big win. Character win."
"The secondary guys came up big," Capuano said. "Our top line struggled a little bit in the first, but they came around. Your best players have got to be your best players. We were fortunate with that break with the too many men, but we were able to capitalize."
Nash posted his second straight multigoal game, and Chris Kreider added a goal for the Rangers, who had won three in a row. Cam Talbot made 32 saves while subbing for Henrik Lundqvist, who missed the game due to illness.
It was the first time in eight games the Rangers allowed more than two goals.
"We wanted the two points, and we put ourselves in a good position to get them," Nash said. "We didn't get the job done."
The Rangers pressed hard in the final minute after Talbot was pulled for an extra skater, but couldn't tie it.
Unlike Monday in a 4-3 shootout victory at home against Philadelphia, the Islanders didn't wait until the third period to tie it.
"It was a good win," Capuano said, "but we've got a stretch coming up where we've got to make sure that we're focused and we're committed and doing the right things."
After Kreider restored the Rangers' two-goal lead at 9:34 of the second with a power-play goal, Hickey began the comeback with his fourth of the season off a perfect feed from Okposo with 6:38 left in the period.
Just 3:14 later, McDonald got to a rebound off a hard shot by Tavares and fired a drive that beat Talbot for his fourth of the season to tie it.
"You're up 3-1 and you think maybe you can get through the period and play a good solid third, but we didn't," forward Brad Richards said. "We made some mistakes. Some nights other teams will capitalize, and some nights you get away with it. We didn't get away with it."
For the second successive game, Nash struck quickly and gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Nash took a pass from behind the net from Kreider and wristed a shot past Poulin at 1:02 -- 8 seconds faster than Sunday when he put New York in front against Washington.
The Islanders put lots of pressure on the Rangers in their end, but couldn't get a shot past Talbot. When Okposo failed to cleanly handle a pass near the right circle, Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi spotted Nash alone at center ice and sent a pass to him.
Nash received the puck with his back to the Islanders net, and quickly turned up ice and came in on a breakaway. Nash shifted the puck several times on his stick before sliding a shot in at 11:07 for his 16th of the season, fifth in three games, and ninth in nine games.
The Islanders got one back with 2:38 left in the first when Martin took a pass in the slot from Tavares and scored his third of the season.
Martin went 38 games without a goal, dating to Nov. 1 at Ottawa. Hickey netted his first in 12 games, dating to Dec. 29 at Minnesota. ... Nash netted the winning goal in the previous four games in which he scored. ... The Rangers signed G David Leneveu to back up Talbot.