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Isles top struggling Sens in shootout

by Brian Compton
The Islanders' bench congratulates Mike Sillinger after he scored a shootout goal against the Ottawa Senators.
Leap years usually come and go in between New York Islanders’ victories over the Ottawa Senators.

That’s why when Andrei Meszaros erased a 2-1 deficit with 1:55 remaining in regulation, it was easy to believe things would once again go against the Isles.

Not this time.

After a scoreless overtime, Rick DiPietro made a huge save on Dany Heatley to extend the shootout, and Mike Sillinger eventually beat Ray Emery for the game-winner as the Isles notched a rare 3-2 win over the Senators at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night. The Islanders snapped an eight-game losing streak against the team from Canada’s capital city.

The victory marked the first time New York (13-8-1) has defeated Ottawa since Jan. 19, 2004. The Isles’ are 5-30-8 against Ottawa since Feb. 12, 1996.

After a remarkable start in which Ottawa won 15 of its first 17 games, the Senators have hit a bump in the road. They’ve now lost four straight games for the first time in more than a year and are 1-3-2 in their last six.

"We showed some better things than we have in some of our other recent games,'' Sens’ forward Antoine Vermette said. ''We created chances. We're moving forward in a good way.''

Meanwhile, DiPietro continues to shine for the Islanders. He made 35 saves in his 17th consecutive start, helping the Isles improve to 5-4-1 over the last 10 games — despite the fact they haven’t scored more than two regulation goals in any of those contests.

''He gives us a chance to win every game,'' Sillinger said of DiPietro. ''You kind of forget about him because you expect it every night. He's the reason why we have 13 wins. He's given us 10.''

Newcomer Josef Vasicek has done his part, too. The Islanders’ center scored his ninth goal of the season with 26 seconds to play in the opening period. Vasicek, who signed with the Isles late in the summer after scoring just six goals in 63 games last season between Nashville and Carolina, swatted a rebound out of the air and past Emery. It was the first time the Islanders scored in the opening period in six games.

After a scoreless second period, Ottawa knotted things when Meszaros scored his first of two goals 1:05 into the third. The bad-angled power-play shot was a relief for the Senators, who failed to beat DiPietro despite peppering him with 12 shots on goal in the middle frame.

''They played pretty defensively after they got the first goal, which is what we expected,'' said Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, who returned after missing one game with a groin injury. ''We're happy to be able to tie it up and get a point.''

Sillinger put the Isles back on top just 3:53 later, and DiPietro kept his team in front until Meszaros tied the game. His shot from the point appeared to deflect off the leg of Islanders’ forward Richard Park before sailing past DiPietro to make it 2-2.

Neither team could capitalize on an overtime power play. DiPietro nearly sent the Coliseum crowd home frowning when he raced out to grab control of a loose puck in the right corner — only to get caught going back to his crease. He was fortunate that the shot by Joe Corvo hit Park and died before going over the goal line. DiPietro got back in time to cover it up.

''Oh man, I hate that,'' Sillinger said of DiPietro’s wandering. ''He did give us a scare. I was thinking, 'What the hell is he doing?'''

Alfredsson bear DiPietro on the first shot of the shootout. Isles captain Bill Guerin, mired in an 11-game scoring drought, extended the shootout when he scored in the third round, beating Emery with a wrist shot between the legs. Two rounds later, Sillinger beat Emery over the glove and DiPietro stopped Dean McAmmond for the win.

''It's a big two points,'' Guerin said. ''They're the top team in the league right now. If we play our game we can play with everybody. And not just play with everybody, we can win.''

Material from wire services and team websites was used in this report.

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