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New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro wanted to make a good impression in his season debut after signing an unprecedented contract last month. It didn't happen.

The Islanders need a better effort from their long-term investment when they continue a season-opening four-game road trip on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.

On Sept. 12, the 25-year-old DiPietro signed a league-record 15-year contract that will pay the former No. 1 overall pick $67.5 million. With teams now managing a salary cap, the deal raised eyebrows across the league.

"Clubs are free to make their own decisions within the confines laid out in the collective bargaining agreement and other applicable league rules," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "Some decisions turn out well, others not so well.

"Time will tell whether this will be a good decision or a bad one for the Islanders."

DiPietro and the Islanders' season got off to a bad start Thursday with a 6-3 loss to Phoenix. After being staked to an early 1-0 lead, DiPietro gave up six unanswered goals before being replaced by Mike Dunham to start the third period.

"We had some bad breaks," DiPietro said. "Things kind of went down south for us."

Dunham, signed Sunday to a one-year contract, stopped all 12 shots he faced in his debut. Viktor Kozlov, also making his New York debut after spending last season with New Jersey, added two third-period goals.

The loss spoiled coach Ted Nolan's first game back in the NHL since 1997.

"The big thing for us will be resiliency, and how we bounce back," said DiPietro, who is 1-6-1 with a 3.51 goals-against average in his last eight road starts.

DiPietro lost his only career appearance against the Sharks, 5-4 on March 11, 2004. After replacing current Isles general manager Garth Snow in the first period, DiPietro gave up five goals - including two to reigning goal-scoring champion Jonathan Cheechoo.

The Sharks opened their season with a 5-4 overtime win over St. Louis on Thursday. San Jose gave up the tying goal to the Blues' Bill Guerin with 5.6 seconds left in regulation, but Curtis Brown scored the game-winner 2:48 left in overtime.

The game included two delays, one when referee Rob Martell was hit in the left eye by a shot and another to fix a hole in the boards left by one of Cheechoo's skates.

"That was one of the longer games I've ever been a part of," said Brown, back with San Jose after one season in Chicago. "I don't think there's anything else they can throw at us this season. That's one of the things, though. You're going to have all kinds of distractions, and you've got to overcome them."

Joe Thornton had three assists Thursday after a 2005-06 season in which he led the NHL with 125 points en route to league MVP honors. In 27 games against the Islanders, all while with Boston, Thornton has eight goals and 11 assists.

Cheechoo failed to score in the season opener after leading the league with 56 last year. Milan Michalek, whose seven preseason goals led the NHL, scored twice off assists from Thornton.

San Jose has won only once in the last seven meetings with New York.

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