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DiPietro, Isles look for answers after lackluster finish

by Brian Compton
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Rick DiPietro couldn't do anything but scratch his head.

After watching his team dominate a second period that featured two power-play goals during a five-minute major penalty against New Jersey Devils defenseman Colin White, the New York Islanders goaltender faced 14 shots in the third period en route to a 4-2 loss at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night.

"I don't know, to be honest," DiPietro responded when asked how his team went from outshooting the Devils 14-1 in the second to being outshot 14-3 in the final 20 minutes. "The second period was kind of a weird period with the penalty and the extended power play. We just didn't get our forecheck established. We weren't putting as much pressure on their 'D' in the offensive zone. It's tough to maintain that kind of intensity level for 60 minutes. We got away from it in the third, but we've got to learn from our mistakes."

It was DiPietro's second loss in four appearances since returning from knee injuries that kept him sidelined for a full calendar year. On Saturday though, he could hardly be blamed for any of the three pucks that got past him. Zach Parise's second goal of the night came via an empty net with 45.1 seconds remaining. DiPietro had blanked the Devils five days earlier in a 4-0 win on Long Island, his first shutout in nearly two years.

"I haven't even thought about it," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said when asked to assess DiPietro's performance. "I was thinking about some other things as far as our performance in the third period. I think in the first period he had some pretty big saves." 

After falling behind 1-0 in the first on a goal by Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner, the Islanders went ahead in the second after White was handed a major boarding penalty for his hit from behind on Sean Bergenheim. Kyle Okposo and Jack Hillen scored 2:02 apart during the man advantage to give the Isles a 2-1 lead, but Parise tied the game in the final minute of the period when his intended pass from the left boards deflected off Isles defenseman Freddy Meyer and past DiPietro.

New Jersey never looked back after that, and Bryce Salvador scored what proved to be the game-winner with 6:49 remaining on a shot from the point that beat a screened DiPietro. The Islanders' goaltender finished with 24 saves.

"Any loss is tough, but to play the second period like we did and come out in the third and not get the result we were looking for is tough," DiPietro said. "It's a game that you hope you don't look back at the end of the regular season and those two points we should have had cost us the playoffs."

The Islanders could have moved into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a victory, but instead fell into 10th. Gordon's club trails the Rangers, Philadelphia and Montreal by just one point and faces the Washington Capitals on home ice Tuesday night.

"We didn't take advantage of the fact that they were shorthanded for seven or eight minutes in the second period," Gordon said. "We didn't give up anything, but unfortunately, we didn't push the pace to allow ourselves to win the hockey game. We played the game not to lose."

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