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DiPietro blanks Devils

by Brian Compton
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- If there were any concerns about Rick DiPietro's knee on Monday morning, they were quieted before sunset on Long Island.

Making his second appearance in three days, DiPietro stopped all 20 shots he faced for his first shutout in 23 months as the New York Islanders won their fourth straight with a 4-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils in front of a capacity crowd of 16,250 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

DiPietro, who won his first start at home on Saturday night in a 3-2 shootout win against Buffalo, received a standing ovation from the crowd during the final minute as his team improved to 9-2-1 over its last 12 games.

"It feels great," said DiPietro, who hadn't had a shutout since Feb. 21, 2008 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "Like I've said all along, the biggest thing for us right now is wins. It was another great effort by our guys. We've just got to keep it going and not get complacent."

It certainly appears that DiPietro is ready to keep it going. The rust factor was nowhere to be found in this one, as the franchise goaltender showed that he is eager and able to carry the load -- although Dwayne Roloson is expected to get the start in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

"It's a big step for me," DiPietro said. "I'm always excited to get back in there and get an opportunity. I'm feeling more comfortable."

Matt Moulson scored twice and Trent Hunter had two assists for the Islanders, who now have eighth place in the Eastern Conference all to themselves as they moved two points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. The Isles chased Martin Brodeur after the second period, though the future Hall of Famer was hardly to blame for the loss.

The Devils (32-14-1), who have lost three in a row in regulation for the first time this season, remain four points ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins in the Atlantic Division.

"I'm a little concerned," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I can see us slipping a bit."

The Islanders needed only 67 seconds to get on the scoreboard, as Moulson quickly deposited his team-leading 18th goal of the season. After Brodeur made an initial save on Moulson's wrister from the right circle, the Isles' forward collected his own rebound and backhanded it home as the Islanders grabbed a 1-0 lead.

"It's great to get the wins … everyone is pretty confident right now," Moulson said. "We stuck to our game plan and we were very aggressive on our forecheck. We knew we had to put a lot of shots on Marty, and I think we did a pretty good job of that."

Not long after Isles forward Richard Park had a goal waved off, the Islanders made it 2-0 when Mark Streit scored on the power play at 3:44. After Rod Pelley was penalized for shooting the puck into the stands, Streit took a nice pass from behind the net by John Tavares and rifled a slap shot from just inside the point for his seventh goal of the season.

New York took the two-goal lead into the locker room as it outshot New Jersey 18-7 in the opening period.

"It's been building up over time here," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said of his team's confidence. "Again, we have a night where we don't give up a lot of scoring chances and we don't give up a lot of shots."

Josh Bailey put the Isles up by three when he notched his 12th goal of the season at 15:42 of the second period. Bailey, who scored seven goals as a rookie in 2008-09, positioned himself in front the net and redirected Jack Hillen's backhander past Brodeur to make it 3-0.

Moulson extended the Islanders' lead with 1:55 remaining in the second period, when he redirected Andy Sutton's low slap shot from just inside the point past Brodeur to make it 4-0. Brodeur was replaced by Yann Danis to start the third period.

"We have to make an effort to have ourselves ready to play right from the get-go," Brodeur said.

Zach Parise had the Devils' best chance in the second, but his wrist shot from the left circle went off the far goal post with about 13:30 left in the period. New Jersey was outshot 14-4 in the second, but DiPietro never lost his focus despite the lack of action in his end of the ice.

"I'm sure he's pretty relieved to be able to get two wins in a row," Gordon said. "For me, it was an opportunity to get him into two games in three days. It's a way to be able to get him a lot of reps in a short amount of time."

Now that he's passed that test, perhaps it's time to stop asking about DiPietro's health?

"It's up to you guys to continue to ask those questions," DiPietro said. "You guys have to do what you have to do. I'm taking as much Vitamin C as I can to stay healthy. I'm going to continue to work hard and take care of my body and listen to the advice of doctors and trainers. They've done a great job so far.

"This crowd's been great. This organization's been great. I consider myself a Long Islander. As much as my friends in Boston hate to hear that, this is a great place to be. I'm proud to be an Islander and I look forward to continuing to help us win games."

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