TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Don't let Rick DiPietro's calm demeanor fool you.
The New York Islanders goalie is no different than any other player who has
butterflies before a big game, even if his performance in Saturday's 3-0
playoff victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning suggests otherwise.
``I think everyone's nervous,'' the 22-year-old goaltender said. ``If you
don't have jitters, then you better check your pulse because this is a big time
of year. Big circumstances.''
DiPietro got his first postseason win in his second career start, stopping
all 22 shots to help the Islanders even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference
first-round series at one game apiece.
Jason Blake returned from a high ankle sprain, expected to sideline him for
the entire series, and scored his first two career playoff goals _ including an
empty-netter with just under a minute to go.
``Obviously, it's a special time of the year,'' said Blake, who practiced
Friday for the first time in more than two weeks and then lobbied to play.
``A lot of guys only get to play in the playoffs once in their career, and
we've got a good team. I was sitting in the stands last game _ just watching _
and it's tough to watch. ... I'm a competitor and I want to be out there.''
Janne Niinimaa also scored his first playoff goal and added an assist on
Blake's second to help New York gain home-ice advantage. Game 3 is Monday night
at Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders had one of the NHL's best home records
this season (25-11-4-1).
``To go home is great, but it's going to take an effort like that no matter
where we play to continue to succeed,'' Islanders coach Steve Stirling said.
``Long Island is a tough place to play when the crowd's going, so we're
looking forward to getting back and seeing our fans and having them push us
through these next two games,'' said DiPietro, who four years ago became the
first goaltender selected No. 1 overall in the NHL draft.
The closest the Lightning came to scoring was with just under 14 minutes to
go, when Vincent Lecavalier kicked the puck into the net. The goal, which
would've brought the Lightning within 2-1, was disallowed after officials
viewed a video replay.
The Islanders were done in by two turnovers by Eric Cairns in a 3-0 loss in
Game 1. And while Stirling insisted he didn't hold the defenseman responsible,
Cairns didn't play Saturday _ replaced by Sven Butenschon.
Without help from the kind of mistakes Cairns made to set up two of Tampa
Bay's three goals in the opener, the top-seeded Lightning struggled to create
good scoring opportunities against DiPietro.
Tampa Bay was 0-for-7 on the power play.
``Our penalty-killing did the job to negate any sort of momentum shift in
their favor,'' New York captain Michael Peca said. ``That's big because it
allowed us in the third period to continue to attack, get the second goal and
go on to win from there.''
Tampa Bay's Nikolai Khabibulin wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in rejecting
30 shots in Game 1. Niinimaa's goal went between Khabibulin's legs in the first
period, and Blake made it 2-0 with a shot from the left circle that got just
inside the right post early in the third.
The eighth-seeded Islanders won three of four from the Lightning during the
regular season and have played the first two games of the playoffs exactly the
way they feel they need to make the series tight.
Tampa Bay's top four scorers _ Martin St. Louis, Cory Stillman, Brad
Richards and Lecavalier _ were shut out for the second straight game.
``I think some guys are fighting the puck a little bit. ... It happens
sometimes,'' Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. ``I'm not discouraged. I
believe in this hockey club. We'll be ready to play.''