UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ The New York Islanders strengthened their hold on a
playoff spot, while the Tampa Bay Lightning's place on top of the East got even
Michael Peca and Adrian Aucoin scored 2:46 apart late in the third period
and Rick DiPietro made 29 saves in the Islanders' 3-0 victory over the
Lightning on Sunday.
Aucoin set up Peca's goal with 8:19 remaining and then knocked in a rebound
of Alexei Yashin's shot at 14:27 to make it 3-0.
It was Tampa Bay's second loss in two days, having blown a three-goal lead
Saturday at Boston in a 5-4 defeat. The Lightning are clinging to a one-point
lead over Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference, with each club having six
games remaining. Boston, with seven games left, trails by two points.
``We were going so good,'' Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. ``We
knew we weren't going to win all the games the rest of the year, but we didn't
think we'd lose two or three games in a row and have a slump like we have right
The Lightning have lost four times in five games _ including twice to the
Islanders in six days. Tampa Bay earned points in 18 straight games before this
New York stretched its lead for eighth place in the conference to six points
over idle Buffalo. Both clubs play seven more games.
``We want to prove to every team that when we play hard and play our game,
we can beat anybody,'' New York defenseman Adrian Aucoin said.
Mark Parrish netted his 19th goal with 1:56 remaining in the first period, a
frame in which the Islanders had only seven shots and none until nearly 10
minutes elapsed. New York scored twice on only six shots in the third.
Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella was not happy with goaltender John Grahame,
who played for the first time in five games in place of regular starter Nikolai
Khabibulin. Khabibulin was the loser Saturday.
``I thought the game was hard fought by both teams, evenly matched,'' said a
terse Tortorella. ``We're out goaltended again.''
DiPietro made his best saves just before Parrish scored when Vincent
Lecavalier came in on a breakaway and got off a shot, then followed with a
rebound attempt that was turned aside.
He also withstood Tampa Bay's flurry early in the third period to record his
fourth career shutout _ all this season. DiPietro was helped when NHL leading
scorer St. Louis hit the post, and then made a flashy glove save with 1.7
``It was a 1-0 game until there were eight minutes left in the game, so we
were in it,'' Lecavalier said. ``DiPietro made some key saves.
``He's very good. I think he's just as good as (New Jersey's Martin)
Brodeur. He stops everything.''
The Islanders have won four of five following an 0-3-1-2 skid that
threatened their playoff chances. New York, which went 0-6 against the
13th-place Rangers this season, finished 3-1 against the Lightning.
Only seven points separate first place from seventh place, with the
Islanders another eight points behind. If the season ended Sunday, New York and
Tampa Bay would meet in the first round of the playoffs.
``At this point, it's going to be a dogfight to see who wins the East,''
DiPietro said. ``I'm not rooting for any team in particular, unless they're
Regardless, the Lightning will be no lower than the No. 3 seed because they
have long since clinched the weak Southeast Division, in which only they will
qualify for the postseason.
Tampa Bay plays at Toronto on Tuesday before returning home for its final
``It's not time to be all discouraged,'' St. Louis said. ``Look at our
record, look where we are. We're in a great situation. We're going to keep our
head up and we're going to get out of this.''
Grahame made 22 saves, but had his four-game winning streak snapped. He
allowed three goals in a game for the first time in 12 appearances, dating to