TORONTO (AP) -After a seven-game winless slide damaged their playoff hopes, the New York Islanders are once again counting on a late-season run to get back to the postseason.
"We saw the improbable last year when we were left for dead," goalie Rick DiPietro said after the Islanders slipped past the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Thursday night. "There's still a lot of hockey left."
The Isles won their last four games of the season last year to sneak into the playoffs and are hoping to do the same with 24 games left in the regular season.
|The Islanders Ruslan Fedotenko celebrates his second goal, during the third period of New York's 5-4 win at Toronto on Thursday, ending his team's seven-game winless skid. (AP Photo/Adrian Wyld)|
Ruslan Fedotenko scored two of his team's four power-play goals and the Islanders pulled within four points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"This is a big win for us," Fedotenko said. "Everyone is fighting for a playoff spot and we need these points."
Mike Comrie and Bryan Berard also had power-play goals while Freddy Meyer added an empty-netter for the Islanders, who have won two games in a row following a seven-game winless streak.
"There's still belief in this room," Comrie said. "Ted (Nolan) and the coaching staff have us focused on the game at hand. We're not looking too far ahead."
Alex Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker scored for the Leafs, who dropped to 29th overall in the 30-team NHL after Tampa Bay beat Philadelphia on Thursday night.
The Leafs are eight points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 23 games to play in the regular season and have five games left before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
"Basically, that's what's going on right now," Ponikarovsky said. "But we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We still have to play. You can't just give up and do nothing."
Rick DiPietro made 27 saves for the Islanders while Vesa Toskala stopped 24 of 28 shots.
"We should've won that hockey game, but we didn't play well," Stajan said. "We can't come in here and say we played as well as we could, because we didn't."
Berard opened the scoring on a power play with 3:48 to go in the first period, busting into the slot and redirecting a Miroslav Satan pass past Toskala.
Tucker got credit for the tying goal at 7:51 of the second period. Stajan's pass toward the slot deflected off both Tucker and Isles defenseman Aaron Johnson and skidded between DiPietro's legs.
Sundin later slid in a rebound to give Toronto its only lead of the game.
But then the Isles' power play went to work as the Leafs took three consecutive penalties, Fedotenko tied it 2-2 at 14:36 when he banged in a puck that was sitting on the goal line after Josef Vasicek hit the post.
|The Maple Leafs Matt Stajan knocks Blake Comeau off the puck during the second period. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)|
Comrie, with his 17th of the season, put the Isles back in front 3-2 with a power-play goal at 17:25 when he took Satan's nifty pass across the slot and slid it an inch past the goal line under Toskala.
The Isles took a 4-2 lead 4:29 into the third period when Fedotenko scored a nearly identical goal to his first one of the game, banging home a puck in the crease behind Toskala on yet another New York man advantage.
The Leafs rallied. Stajan scored his team's third goal on a Toronto power play at 10:16. The Leafs had a chance to tie it on a two-man advantage just moments later, but couldn't deliver the tying goal.
Meyer, with his first goal of the season, scored in the empty net with 51.5 seconds to make it 5-3. But Ponikarovsky pounced on a rebound in the slot with 18.3 seconds left to cut the lead to one goal again.
Toronto went 1-for-5 with the man advantage while the Islanders went 4-for-7.
Notes: The Islanders improved to 18-0-1 on the season when leading after two periods ... Forward Kyle Wellwood, defenseman Ian White and Wade Belak were healthy scratches for Toronto ... The Isles found out before the game that veteran defenseman Brendan Witt is out two to four weeks with an MCL sprain.