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Isles beat Devils 2-0 to end 14-game slide

by John Kreiser
UNIONDALE, N. Y. – There were smiles and music in the New York Islanders' locker room for the first time in weeks. Amazing what ending a long losing streak can do.

The Islanders ended a 14-game slide, the second-longest stretch without a victory in franchise history, by beating the New Jersey Devils 2-0 at the Nassau Coliseum on Friday afternoon. It was their first victory since a 3-2 overtime win at Tampa Bay on Oct. 21 -- they had been 0-11-3 since -- and the Isles' first in regulation since they beat Colorado 5-2 on Oct. 16.

They were outscored 53-21 during the 14-game drought.

"It's nice to be out of it," second-year center John Tavares said with a smile when asked about the end of the losing streak. "Now we have to get one going the other way."

Rick DiPietro stopped 29 shots for his 16th career shutout and his first victory since the Oct. 21 win at Tampa Bay. He got plenty of help from his teammates, who blocked 27 shots and were credited with 31 hits. Jesse Joensuu gave DiPietro an early lead by scoring 92 seconds into the game, and Rob Schremp added a goal early in the second period.

"Ricky made the saves when we needed him to," said forward Blake Comeau, whose perfect pass set up Schremp's goal, "and we got some goals when we needed them."

It was DiPietro's best performance of the season as he battles to come back from knee and hip injuries that sidelined him for most of the past two seasons. Like the rest of his teammates, he wore a big grin.

"It's huge," he said of the victory. "I think it's a culmination of a lot of hard work in the last couple of weeks. We got away from what made us successful for a while (during a 4-1-2 start). The hard work was there, but there were a lot of mistakes. Today we limited some of our mistakes and buried some of our chances."

New York had to survive some late penalty problems, as Dylan Reese was called for interference at 10:04 and James Wisniewski took a double minor for high sticking Mattias Tedenby 62 seconds later. But the Islanders did not allow a shot during the 58-second 5-on-3 advantage, and DiPietro stopped all four shots he faced during the subsequent 3:02 one-man advantage.

The victory enabled the Islanders to avoid matching the longest winless streak in franchise history, 15 games from Nov. 22-Dec. 23, 1972, during which they went 0-12-3. It was also the first NHL victory for new coach Jack Capuano, who had been 0-2-2 since taking over for Scott Gordon after the slide reached 10 games. The win followed back-to-back overtime loses to Atlanta and Columbus

"It's a big win for the boys,"  Capuano said while downplaying his own milestone.  "I'm happy for the guys. They played well in Atlanta and against Columbus but didn't get rewarded with the points."

The loss snapped the Devils' first two-game winning streak of the season -- they haven't won as many as three in a row since last December. New Jersey has lost five of it last six visits to Long Island.

"It's totally disappointing," Devils coach John MacLean said of his team's performance. "You would think you'd have some guys who've been through this before and would pick it up and know it's a big game. We didn't have anybody going, and that's what happens."

He was especially frustrated by the lack of chances generated during the third-period power plays.
"Our best players are out there and they don't get it done," he said. "You can draw up plays, but unless the execution is there, it's not going to happen."

The Islanders got off to a fast start, scoring just 1:32 into the game on a pretty three-way passing play. Michael Grabner carried the puck down the left side into the Devils' zone and slipped a pass to Frans Nielsen coming down the middle.

Nielsen touched the puck to an onrushing Joensuu in the right circle, and the rookie wing one-timed a shot from the faceoff dot past Johan Hedberg for his first goal of the season.

The Islanders dominated the rest of the period, outshooting the Devils 13-5, but couldn't add to their lead despite five minutes of power-play time.

But New York took its first two-goal lead in a game since Oct. 16 at 5:15 of the second period on Schremp's second of the season. Comeau carried down the left wall, curled at the goal line and fired a pass all the way across the slot to Schremp, who was below the right circle. The second-year center took one quick step and whipped home a high wrister before Hedberg could get across his crease.

The Isles nearly made it 3-0 a few minutes later when Hedberg couldn't hold onto Wisniewski's 45-foot blast, but Tavares was unable to reach from behind the goal line to tuck the puck into the empty net. He shoveled the puck into the crease, where Hedberg gloved it and held on.

New Jersey finally began forcing some of the action in the second half of the second period, but the Devils' best chance, a blast by Jason Arnott with just under two minutes left, rang the post.

The Devils came out firing in the third period, taking the first six shots and forcing DiPietro to make good stops on Brian Rolston and Tedenby before robbing Ilya Kovalchuk from the slot after a giveaway.

In all, the Devils outshot the Islanders 13-1 in the third period. MacLean wasn't impressed.

"Too little, too late," he said. "You can't expect to play 20 minutes and think you're going to get a win."

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