ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) _ The New York Islanders are going to sink or swim with
Rick DiPietro in net.
DiPietro, coming off his fourth straight defeat, made 19 of his career-high
45 saves in the third period and the Islanders snapped a six-game winless
streak with a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Friday night.
One night earlier, DiPietro surrendered four goals on seven shots in the
second period of a 5-4 loss at San Jose. But first-year coach Steve Stirling,
who coached him in the minors, wasn't about to let his 22-year-old goaltender
spend an entire game sitting at the end of the bench thinking about it.
``It was nice to have him show the confidence to throw me back in there,
especially with the games as important as they are coming down the stretch,''
said DiPietro, the first overall pick in the 2000 draft. ``We were able to
clear out the front of the net tonight and I was able to see a lot of the
Until this recent slide, DiPietro had not lost consecutive starts since
``It was real important to put him back there,'' Stirling said. ``It's
another test for a young kid who is making progress.
``He was going really well, but then he got hurt a little bit and he didn't
play in both Pittsburgh games when he was scheduled to play. I think that set
him back a little, but he was sharp as a tack tonight and got back on track.
He's been with me a long time, and he usually comes back like this more often
than not after a game like last night.''
Janne Niinimaa and Cliff Ronning each had a goal and an assist for the
Islanders, who increased their lead to six points over idle Buffalo for the
eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff seed with 10 games left. Dave
Scatchard scored into an empty net in the final minute.
``We can't worry about the playoff race. We can't worry about everyone else.
We just have to worry about our next game,'' defenseman Jason Blake said. ``We
can only control what we do. The playoffs are in our hands. And if we keep
doing the things that we've got to do, we can go as far as we want to. For us,
it's just consistency.''
Samuel Pahlsson scored for the Ducks, who have lost three straight for the
first time since Dec. 21-27. Martin Gerber, starting for the first time since
Feb. 4 after a season-high 15 consecutive starts by Jean-Sebastien Giguere,
made 26 saves.
``It was a good effort,'' Anaheim defenseman Keith Carney said. ``We worked
hard and played our system pretty well. We worked together as a team and had
some quality chances, but it just wasn't enough. You've got to give credit to
The Islanders took the lead for good late in the second period after Ronning
won a faceoff deep in the Anaheim zone. Niinimaa got the puck from Kenny
Jonsson and blasted a one-timer along the ice that hopped off the blade of
Gerber's stick, over his left shoulder and across the goal line. Jonsson's
assist was his 200th in the NHL.
Gerber stopped 15 of 16 shots in the first period, including seven by
Scatchard. The only puck that eluded Gerber went in off the left skate of
Anaheim defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski, after Ronning played the carom of
Niinimaa's shot off the end boards and made a blind backhand pass toward the
front of the net.
The goal was the ninth this season for Ronning, who signed with the
Islanders on Jan. 9 and scored twice in Thursday's 5-4 loss at San Jose.
The Islanders survived a two-man disadvantage for 49 seconds, but Anaheim
got a power-play goal with 2 seconds remaining on the second penalty. Pahlsson
got a pass from Petr Sykora at the right of the net and beat DiPietro to the
stick side late in the second period to tie the score.