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Friday, February 29, 2008

DiPietro, Isles Win the Hard Way

Islanders 5 : Thrashers 4 (OT)

Last week, the Islanders completely dominated the Thrashers at Nassau Coliseum, winning 4-1 and setting tons of records along the way. Last night, however, perhaps they set a record for the number of headaches endured on the Isles bench.

After getting off to a 3-0 lead and then quickly losing it, the Isles managed to just escape in Atlanta, 5-4 in overtime, on Trent Hunter's game-winning 9th of the season from Josef Vasicek, greasing the Thrashers' now five-game losing skid. Mike Comrie scored 2 goals, Vasicek had a goal on top of his assist, and Rob Davison had an assist (his first point of the season as well as in an Isles uniform), and a less-than-perfect Rick DiPietro made 19 saves after having an uneventful first period, a shaky second period, and a more solid third period.

In the first, the Isles built their lead on practically every Atlanta mistake, particulary by the defense, which hesitated for too long with the puck on various occasions and looked lost in the third as well. Comrie scored first on a good pass from the defensive zone by Davison, and then Trent Hunter took advantage of a bad clearing attempt by goaltender Kari Lehtonen (32 saves), who had his head down as he played the puck. Hunter in turn set up Vasicek for his 14th of the season. Then, 1:02 into the second period, Andy Hilbert scored his 8th to put the Isles up by three goals- but it would fall apart fast, as first Bryan Berard would trip Eric Perrin on a breakaway chance to set Perrin up on a penalty shot (on an Isles PP, might I add), on which he scored. Then came a goal DiPietro might like to have back- a five-hole shot by Ken Klee for his first on the season, 13:56 into the second period. Afterward, with five minutes to go in the period, one-time Isle Alexei Zhitnik shot one past DiPietro, 3-3 in the blink of an eye.

Hold on, it gets better.

After a parade to the penalty box, and a still-inept Isles PP, the third opened with- what else?- a goal, 3:17 in, Comrie's second of the night and team-leading 20th on a quick feed from Berard. It looked to be the game winner, especially when Atlanta was playing as badly as they had in the first- but fortunately for them, some ragged play on the Isles' behalf led to a tying goal by Bobby Holik with 1:30 to go, sending the game into overtime, where Hunter finally, finally, sealed the deal.

When asked by Newsday's Greg Logan if DiPietro was playing injured (which has been the speculation for some time), Ted Nolan said, "Well, we obviously can't divulge all our information," fueling even more buzz about the goaltender, who hasn't been terrible, but neither has he been the consistent netminder he was pre-All-Star break. However, a Newsday piece mentioned that DiPietro has suffered a loss in his family, and had an option to sit out the game, but decided to play on. He will likely get a game off this weekend, as Nolan alluded to Wade Dubielewicz playing "soon."

Our condolences, Rick, and all the best to you.

link- http://www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/ny-spisles0229,0,2651655.story

Notes: Brendan Witt's still looking to start playing again as soon as Saturday... Isles assistant coach Gerard Gallant has suffered a broken orbital bone in his nose from an inadvertent puck to the face on Tuesday night, and is resting comfortably at home. Much luck and best wishes to him.

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