Official Scoresheet | Official Super Stats
By Jason Lockhart
It's only February 22nd, but it felt like April in the Nassau Coliseum as the Islanders downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 via a shootout in a game filled with playoff intensity. Randy Robitaille scored the only goal in the shootout, while Rick DiPietro, who stopped 27 shots, stoned all three shooters in the skills competition to preserve the win.
The Islanders trailed 2-1 after two periods, but earned the victory to move one point ahead of the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings. Trent Hunter scored both regulation goals to help send it into overtime.
Toronto scored first when Alex Steen's pass banked off Matt Stajan's skate and past DiPietro with 8:26 left in the second period.
The Leafs went up 2-0 when DiPietro was screened in front by Nik Antropov. Alexei Ponikarovsky's shot from the left circle deflected off a player in front and snuck past DiPietro with 6:23 to go in the second period.
Hunter got the Islanders' first goal in the final minute of the second period. Sean Hill floated a puck towards the net from the point and Hunter deflected it at waist level past Andrew Raycroft.
The Islanders caught a break when Mats Sundin's apparent goal was waived off early in the third period because Ponikarovsky interfered with DiPietro in the crease.
While on the power play, Hunter tied the score with 6:04 remaining in the third period. Marc-Andre Bergeron did a superb job keeping the puck in the offensive zone along the right boards. He then slid the puck across to Tom Poti, who passed it down low to Viktor Kozlov before getting the puck back. Poti threw the puck on net and Hunter tipped it past Raycroft to electrify the Coliseum crowd.
"There aren't going to be too many tic-tac-toe goals anymore," said head coach Ted Nolan. "It's going to be the simple plays where they get it back to the point and hope for a tip or rebound in front. A lot of teams were on top of Tom all season long, but now he has a partner to dish the puck off to in Bergeron. It creates some space for both guys. Tom had his chance to use his shot and get it through."
DiPietro came up big in the final two minutes, stopping Stajan from point-blank.
After a scoreless overtime session, Robitaille scored the only goal in the shootout with a deke to the forehand. He acknowledged the thunderous crowd while skating back to the bench.
"Randy's got his confidence going," said Nolan. "He's had great poise and great demeanor, so he's not one of those guys who is going to panic in that situation."
DiPietro made saves on John Pohl, Mats Sundin and Ponikarovsky in the shootout.
"Sundin beat me high glove last time, when he went around to his backhand, I was able to get my glove on it," said DiPietro. "On Ponikarovsky, I just poke-checked it."
The Islanders out-shot the Maple Leafs 30-29, and finished 1-for-5 on the power play, while Toronto failed to score on two extra-man attempts.
Five Stars of the Game:
1. Trent Hunter: Scored the two Islanders regulation goals
2. Randy Robitaille: Clinched it in the shootout
3. Rick DiPietro: Stopped 30 shots in the game, including three in overtime
4. Andrew Raycroft: Turned aside 28 of 30 shots in regulation and overtime
5. Alexei Ponikarovsky: Scored the second Leafs goal and took a team-high five shots
Stat of the Game: The Islanders have now won five games when trailing after two periods.
Havoc Zone Fans of the Game: Brothers Alex and Adam along with their friend Steven were three of the over thousand Havoc Zone fans, who lined up for $19 tickets and the chance to meet Garth Snow, Bruno Gervais, Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe. "I saw Bruno's pizza delivery piece on Islanders TV and jokingly asked him if he had pizzas to deliver," said Alex. "We also talked to him about seeing him up at Bridgeport. It was a pretty cool experience meeting all of them."
Slapshots: Trent Hunter's goal was a Dave Buster's Power Goal because it was scored in the final minute of the second period. One lucky section won $10 Dave Buster's Power Cards...When Sean Hill and Bryan McCabe were called for coincidental minors in the overtime period, the teams skated in a rare 3-on-3 situation for 33 seconds...Tonight's attendance was 11,759...Alexei Yashin (knee), Shawn Bates (groin), Radek Martinek (leg) and Bruno Gervais (ankle) were tonight's scratches.
Game Operations: The new Islanders "Dream Seats" were introduced during the second period. While sitting in the comfortable seats, one fan won Grimaldi's "Name that Tune" game when she correctly guessed the song playing over the loud speaker, "Ain't No Other Man" by Christina Aguilera.
39 Rick DiPietro
1 Mike Dunham
32 Brendan Witt - 6 Sean Hill
14 Chris Campoli - 44 Freddy Meyer
3 Tom Poti - 47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
11 Andy Hilbert - 18 Mike Sillinger - 7 Trent Hunter
12 Chris Simon - 27 Randy Robitaille - 55 Jason Blake
45 Arron Asham - 25 Viktor Kozlov - 81 Miroslav Satan
10 Richard Park - 51 Frans Nielsen - 15 Jeff Tambellini
1 Andrew Raycroft
30 Jean-Sebastien Aubin
15 Tomas Kaberle - 31 Pavel Kubina
24 Bryan McCabe - 8 Carl Colaiacovo
25 Hal Gill - 7 Ian White
3 Wade Belak - 36 Brendan Bell
23 Alexei Ponikarovsky - 13 Mats Sundin - 80 Nik Antropov
10 Alex Steen - 14 Matthew Stajan - 92 Jeff O'Neill
33 Bates Battaglia - 21 John Pohl - 18 Chad Kilger
39 Travis Green