Oh, Ricky, you're so fine

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

Rick DiPietro made 31 saves leading his club to its first regular-season win in Ottawa in nearly five years.
Some random thoughts before I plan a quick getaway to Mexico:

He’s An All-Star – Rick DiPietro continues to show the hockey world that he has emerged as a top-five goaltender in the NHL.

The Islanders’ netminder made 31 saves Sunday night, leading his club to its first regular-season win in Ottawa in nearly five years. Oh, yeah, he also came within about six inches of scoring his first goal.

DiPietro will join New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and Florida’s Tomas Vokoun at the All-Star Game in Atlanta on Jan. 27, and rightfully so. The first-overall pick in the 2000 Entry Draft has carried the Islanders on his shoulders throughout the first half of the season, and, at 26, has become an elite player in this great League of ours.

DiPietro’s play helped the Islanders go 2-1-2 on a grueling five-game road trip, their longest of the season. New York picked up points in Colorado, Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa on the trip, giving them sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

"It's a big win," DiPietro said after his 18th win of the season. "It makes an average road trip a pretty good one. That was the big thing we wanted to do. We managed to win that last one and having dropped a couple of points in the first three games, it was nice to finish up the road trip with a win."


Not Two Shabby – The Minnesota Wild were already in decent shape with Niklas Backstrom in goal. But Josh Harding’s recent play has certainly turned some heads.

Harding made another 26 saves Sunday in the Wild’s 4-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes. He’s now stopped 93 of his last 97 shots, and, for the time being, it appears he’ll continue to get the starting nod from coach Jacques Lemaire.

Always friendly, Lemaire was able to dumb it down for those who don’t understand what makes a No. 1 goalie a No. 1 goalie.

"The one that stops the puck is ahead of the other one," he said. "The one that stops more pucks is the best one."

Phew … my headache is gone!

Anyway, Harding sees no goalie controversy in Minnesota. At the very least, though, it looks like the Wild have a “1A” and “1B” rather than a clear-cut starter and backup.

"When you can go with two people it creates competition between the two goaltenders. It's a healthy competition because Nik and I are very good friends, and it just makes us both play a lot better."

Don’t Come Back Anymore! – A quick word of advice to the Florida Panthers’ ticket office: Don’t include the Colorado Avalanche in any of your ticket packs next season.

Florida’s 4-3 shootout loss Sunday to the Avs was just another on a long list of defeats in the Sunshine State. The Panthers have never defeated the Avalanche in the BankAtlantic Center and are 1-11 against them in Florida. The Panthers have not defeated the Colorado franchise since a 4-2 victory against the Quebec Nordiques on April 22, 1995, at Miami Arena.

That’s not a misprint. April 22, 1995. I was two months shy of graduating from high school, the Islanders were about five months shy of unveiling their infamous “Fisherman” jerseys and MC Hammer was still selling records.

Why do I get the feeling the Panthers won’t be hiring me to be a motivational speaker anytime soon?

Who Needs Rest? – Despite playing 24 hours earlier on home ice in an overtime loss to the Boston Bruins, the resilient Philadelphia Flyers handed the well-rested Washington Capitals a 6-4 loss Sunday.


It was third game in four days for the Flyers, who have won seven of their last nine games. Mike Knuble notched his first two-goal game of the season for Philadelphia, which returns to the ice Wednesday against Florida.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was less than pleased with his special teams after this one. Washington went 0-for-5 on the power play and allowed a shorthanded tally to the ageless Jim Dowd.

"Always seems to be too cute," Boudreau said of the Caps’ power play. "It starts with shots and you make plays. If you want to make five passes and score, that doesn't happen. It might happen once every 10 to 15 times, but if it only happens once every 10 to 15 times, your percentage is pretty low."

Double Whammy – The Sedin twins were on their game Sunday night, which translated into nothing good for the St. Louis Blues.

Daniel and Henrik combined for five points in a 4-3 shootout win that snapped Vancouver’s three-game road skid. The win helped the Canucks keep pace with Minnesota in the Northwest Division race.

"I think we were on our toes from the beginning," Daniel Sedin said. "When we forecheck good we usually play good."

Having Roberto Luongo doesn’t exactly hurt, either.

Here Comes The Flying ‘V’! – Once Scott Niedermayer announced he was coming back, you had to have the feeling that things would start falling into place for the Anaheim Ducks.


Surprise! Francois Beauchemin’s goal 33 seconds into overtime gave the defending champions their sixth-straight win at the Honda Center, as they earned a 4-3 overtime victory against the San Jose Sharks, who hadn’t lost on the road since Nov. 9, which was also in Anaheim.

The acquisition of veteran center Doug Weight certainly hasn’t hurt the Ducks, either. Weight sent the game to overtime Sunday with a goal at 19:32 of the third period.

"They're a tough team. They're in our division, and I definitely felt it," Weight said. "Being a new player here, you kind of get into new rivalries. We've played this team four times since I've been here and I felt the emotion before the game. So it's always fun to beat them."

Congratulations to Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who was finally given a night off. Only washing machines work harder.

Back In Business – Looks like the Edmonton Oilers aren’t interested in closing up shop this season.

Sunday’s gritty 2-1 win against the Calgary Flames improved the Oilers to 4-0 on their five-game homestand, which concludes Tuesday against the L.A. Kings. Their home success has helped the Oilers get back to the .500 mark as they aim to remain in the Western Conference playoff race.

”We're playing better,” Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. ''This was a really solid game for us. It was another one-goal win, but at the same time, it wasn't indicative of some of the other ones where we are trying to hang on at the end. We had lots of chances in the third period to widen the lead. It's as complete a game as we have played from start to finish this season. There's a lot of good things happening in our game right now, where as before there were a lot of holes in the dam.”


Eight Is Enough – Patrick Sharp was done losing.

The Selke Trophy candidate scored once in the second period and again in the shootout, as the Chicago Blackhawks snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 3-2 shootout win against the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

Sharp went third in the breakaway session for the Blackhawks, who will look to make it two in a row Wednesday night when the St. Louis Blues visit the United Center.

”I really wanted to shoot,” Sharp said. “I was just going to snap it as hard as I could with the fresh ice. I saw that their goalie was really far out, so I just put it around him and chipped it into the open net.”

Of course, the Blackhawks made it harder than it had to be. Chicago failed to score on a power play in overtime, which extended the game to the shootout round. At this rate, though, Blackhawks coach Denis Savard doesn’t mind any type of win.

”It wasn't our best game, but we battled,” Savard said. “Nashville came pretty hard at us they played well. The bottom line is we got the win.”

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.