by Kerry Gwydir
Rick DiPietro's sliding left-skate save on Rangers rookie Petr Prucha in the final attempt of the shootout was the difference as the Islanders posted a 3-2 victory over the Rangers in Madison Square Garden tonight.
In the shootout, Jason Blake and Martin Rucinsky failed in the first round of attempts, then Mark Parrish and Jaromir Jagr scored. Shawn Bates put the Islanders up 2-1 in the shootout, meaning DiPietro had to stop Prucha for the win. Despite the impressive young Ranger's best efforts, DiPietro stopped him with his left skate as the Islanders had their victory in the final game of the exhibition season.
"We were all right tonight," said Islanders head coach Steve Stirling after the game. "We still have a lot of work to do before we go to Buffalo, especially on the power play."
Janne Niinimaa got the Isles on the board just 1:40 into the contest on a fluky goal that former Islander goaltender Weekes would want back. Oleg Kvasha made a nifty play along the left wing boards to draw a pair of Rangers' defenders, which allowed Niinimaa to pinch from his left point position unchecked. As the Islander defenseman cruised through the slot, he flicked a soft backhander on net that Weekes should have easily pushed into the corner. Instead, he let the puck roll up his stick, over his shoulder and barely across the goal line.
The Islanders nearly made it a 2-0 game less than a minute later when they went on the powerplay as the Rangers were charged with a delay of game penalty. Weekes made amends twice with top-notch rejections. A rocket from Brent Sopel's right point position was kicked out by the New York netminder as Mark Parrish dug away for the rebound. The second came off a pretty one-time feed from Robert Nilsson behind the Blueshirts' net that Trent Hunter immediately snapped off, which was foiled by Weekes' left pad.
Midway through the first period, a giveaway by Niinimaa helped the hosts tie the game via the powerplay. After Rick DiPietro had cleared his zone and nearly sprung Jason Blake, Niinimaa wound up with the puck. But he lost control with Jagr on top of him, setting the stage for a 2-on-1 into the Islanders' end. Jagr was left with plenty of time to measure up DiPietro and snap a shot into the twine.
Sopel played a big part in netting the Isles' second tally of the game with 8:23 left in the first with the Rangers' Ville Nieminen in the box. His pass to Mike York at the left point allowed the former Ranger to tee-up a shot on net, which hit Hunter in the slot. Yet, Hunter was alert enough to find the puck at his skates and flick the disc past Weekes.
In the second period, the Islanders dominated much of the territorial play. But it was the Rangers who'd notched the only goal when Jed Ortmeyer wristed a shorthanded tally past DiPietro with five minutes left in the period off a 2-on-1.
(55) Jason Blake-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(12) Oleg Kvasha-(37) Mark Parrish
(21) Robert Nilsson-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(29) Petteri Nokelainen-(17) Shawn Bates-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(25) Brad Lukowich
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(3) Brent Sopel
(8) Tomi Pettinen-(2) Chris Campoli
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(26) Martin Rucinsky-(17) Jamie Lundmark-(68) Jarmoir Jagr
(10) Ville Nieminen(19) Blair Betts(58) Petr Prucha
(21) Chad Wiseman-(38) Jarkko Immonen-(41) Jed Ortmeyer
(36) Ryan Hollweg-(18) Dominic Moore-(14) Jason Ward
(55) Fedor Tyutin-(6) Darius Kasparaitis
(34) Jason Strudwick-(5) Dale Purinton
(22) Thomas Pock-(15) Joe Rullier
(80) Kevin Weekes
(30) Henrik Lundqvist