BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Rick DiPietro made sure the New York Islanders weren't
going to give ground in the playoff race.
The Islanders goaltender stopped a career-high 42 shots, helping New York to
a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
The victory, New York's second in less than a week over Buffalo, moved the
eighth-place Islanders eight points ahead of the Sabres in the race for the
Eastern Conference's final playoff berth.
``It's huge,'' DiPietro said. ``We realize there's still a lot of games left
to play. But we realize how important this was. We didn't want to give them any
DiPietro was key in stunting any momentum the Sabres attempted to generate
early, stopping six shots in the first two minutes, and all 17 in the first
``We suspected they were going to come hard,'' Islanders coach Steve
Sterling said. ``And Ricky was equal to the task.''
Oleg Kvasha had a goal and two assists, while Mariusz Czerkawski and Mattias
Weinhandl had a goal and an assist each in helping the Islanders complete a
four-game series sweep of Buffalo and beat the Sabres for the seventh straight
time, going back to Oct. 10, 2002.
Roman Hamrlik also scored for New York, which inched to within a point of
Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont each had a goal and an assist for Buffalo, which
has lost three straight since ending a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1). It's
been a dramatic turnaround for the Sabres who only a week earlier had crept to
within three points of the Islanders and Montreal.
``It's not out of reach,'' coach Lindy Ruff said of the Sabres playoff
status. ``But it's going to be tough. We need to fire on all cylinders.''
Buffalo appeared to be doing just that against New York, only to run into a
Besides his strong first-period effort, DiPietro secured the victory by
stopping all 19 shots directed at him in the third. That included a three-shot
flurry with 2:45 left.
DiPietro was sitting in the crease when Drury's backhander deflected off his
mask. DiPietro then stopped Adam Mair from in close and Drury again, this time
attempting a wraparound.
``He was unbelievable tonight,'' Kvasha said of DiPietro. ``It gives you
confidence when the goalie plays like `Deep' played tonight. It gives you extra
After Dumont cut the Islanders lead to 3-2 with a power-play goal with 2:14
left in the second period, Kvasha sealed the victory, scoring 6:35 into the
It seemed fitting that Kvasha's goal came after DiPietro kicked out his left
skate to get a piece of Dmitri Kalinin's point shot, which dribbled through a
The Islanders regained control of the puck with defenseman Kenny Jonsson
leading an odd-man rush the other way. Jonsson crossed the Sabres' blue line
and fed a pass across to Kvasha, who got a weak shot off that fluttered past
handcuffed goaltender Martin Biron.
The game had a feel of a playoff meeting, opening at a frantic pace in which
the teams combined for eight shots and several scoring chances in the first
The Islanders, coming off Thursday's 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers, kept
pace while playing their third game in four nights.
Bouncing back was an important motivator for the Islanders.
``Last night, I don't know what happened,'' Kvasha said. ``It's always good
when you lose one to win the next one. The team feels better, guys start
laughing and you get back to normal.''
Now it's the Sabres turn to regroup as they travel to play at Ottawa on
``It wasn't a knockout punch,'' Mair said of the loss. ``We have a lot of