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DiPietro gets first win as Isles top Sabres in shootout

by John Kreiser

Trent Hunter's first shootout goal in nearly four years made Rick DiPietro a winner in his first home game in more than 12 months.

Hunter beat Ryan Miller in the eighth round for his first successful shootout attempt in his last 15 tries, and DiPietro then stopped Patrick Kaleta to give the New York Islanders a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, their fifth victory in six games.

The Islanders took three leads in the shootout, only to see the Sabres match each time. But in the eighth round, Hunter snapped a shot behind Miller for his first shootout goal since March 10, 2006. DiPietro then stopped Kaleta for his first victory since Dec. 26, 2008. That was his last previous appearance at the Nassau Coliseum; he played one more game at Phoenix before going down with a knee injury that required surgery and extensive rehab.

He made his return to the NHL eight days ago, stopping 24 of 28 shots in a 4-3 loss at Dallas, but looked much sharper on Saturday while stopping 31 shots.

"It's a huge weight off his shoulders," coach Scott Gordon said of the win.

Hunter's 0-for-14 is the longest drought of any player since the shootout was adopted to in 2005 to settle games that were tied after overtime.

DiPietro, who hadn't taken part in a shootout since Feb. 20, 2008, improved to 17-9 in the breakaway competition.

"Ricky has a tremendous record in shootouts," Gordon said. "I think he likes to be in the spotlight like that. I'm sure he wasn't fearing it."

The Isles, last in the overall standings last season, moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 50 points. They are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games. New York has gone past regulation 18 times this season, winning 10, and has gone to a shootout on each of the last three Saturdays.

Miller made 36 saves through 65 minutes for Buffalo, which is 7-0-3 in its last 10 games and 1-0-1 on a seven-game road trip.

John Tavares popped in a rebound 5:38 into the game and Sean Bergenheim made it 2-0 at 15:33 of the second. But before the Nassau Coliseum crowd could enjoy the two-goal lead, it was one goal again -- Mike Grier's tip-in 21 seconds later cut the margin back to one.

The Isles thought they had gone ahead 3-1 at 6:24 of the third period when a shot by Richard Park went into the net -- but the goal was waved off when it was ruled that Andy Sutton had interfered with Miller's ability to play the puck.

The waved-off goal became huge when Drew Stafford banged in the rebound of Chris Butler's shot -- one of the few rebounds allowed by DiPietro -- for the tying goal at 9:35.

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