Wednesday, October 19, 2005

DiPietro Stones Rangers In Isles' Shootout Win

The Rangers and Islanders have had one of the most intense rivalries in the NHL for four decades. But never before had either team competed in a game that needed a shootout to decide the winner.

In an edge of your seat thriller befitting of the 'New NHL,' the Islanders defeated the Rangers (4-1-3) 3-2 in front of a capacity Madison Square Garden electric crowd.

Rick DiPietro made 33 saves and Alexei Yashin had a goal and an assist to help the Isles get their first win against the Blueshirts in 11 games since a 3-1 victory at MSG on November 23, 2002. Entering the contest, they had gone 0-8-2 in the previous 10 meetings including dropping all six games in '03-04.

Back from a concussion sustained last week against Washington, DiPietro was the story early on making several remarkable saves to thwart some early Rangers' power play chances in the first. One clutch stop for the highlight reel was a flat out robbery on Marek Malik from in close.

DiPietro's early heroics allowed his team to settle down and kill three straight penalties. When they finally had a two-man advantage with Jason Ward and Maxim Kondratiev in the box 24 seconds apart, the Islanders capitalized when Yashin put home an Alexei Zhitnik rebound by Henrik Lundqvist at 13:07 to give the Isles a 1-0 lead. It was the first time in eight games this season that a Ranger opponent had scored the opening goal. It was also the first power play goal the Rangers allowed in 18 chances.

Despite being outshot 14-12 in the first, the Islanders took the one-goal lead to the locker room.

The Rangers came out flying in the second period, carrying much of the play. But despite having an 11-2 advantage in shots, they couldn't get a puck by DiPietro. Due in large part to their goalie, the Isles killed off two more Ranger power plays before they got another two-man advantage late when the Rangers took two undisciplined hooking penalties. Before the period concluded, Miroslav Satan hit the crossbar on a feed from Yashin, keeping it 1-0.

To put into perspective how much of a zone DiPietro was in, Jaromir Jagr had eight shots through 40 minutes.

In the opening minute of the third, Satan wouldn't miss this time. Setup by Yashin in the slot, he beat Lundqvist to the stick side 28 seconds in for the Isles' second power play tally of the night.

But before they could get comfortable with a two-goal lead, a fluke play broke up DiPietro's shutout on the very next shift. Off the faceoff, Jagr carried the puck into the Isles' zone and centered a pass which deflected right off rookie defenseman Tomi Pettinen past DiPietro, making it 2-1 just 14 seconds later. It was Jagr's first even-strength goal of the season (other 6 on PP).

With the crowd back into it, each team took turns controlling play. But neither netminder would budge making for a dramatic finish. With Jason Blake off for hooking Jagr, the Rangers tied the game when they got a spark from rookie Petr Prucha. Having played his best game of the season, Prucha was rewarded by Coach Tom Renney when he was put on the power play. With the top unit unable to crack DiPietro in the first seven PP chances, Prucha came through and redirected a Fedor Tyutin shot for his second goal in two games, tying the game 2-2 with 4:37 left in regulation.

The reenergized Blueshirts threatened to break the tie late but DiPietro was up to the challenge, forcing overtime. In it, the Rangers continued to come close. After Lundqvist (24 saves) stopped Yashin on the only Isles' shot, DiPietro again came up big when he robbed Tom Poti with a glove save. He also got a piece of Prucha's backhand attempt just before.

Fittingly, the game went to the first ever shootout between the archrivals. With the crowd on its feet, Lundqvist stoned Yashin's backhand deke. Then it was DiPietro's turn to shine, stacking the pads on Prucha's forehand deke. On the Isles' second shot, Satan calmly beat Lundqvist stickside giving them a 1-0 lead. Then the unthinkable happened when Jagr's stick snapped in half as he attempted a wrist shot at DiPietro, making for the goalie's easiest save of the night. With a chance to end it, Mark Parrish missed wide. But Michael Nylander's forehand deke went off the post, giving the Islanders (3-3-0) the victory. It was DiPietro's first ever win against the Rangers.

The best part about it is that these two teams get to do it all again tonight at Nassau Coliseum with a third match to follow at MSG next Thursday. If this is what the league envisioned, then they got one right.


Notes: Returning from a groin injury which kept him out a week, Kevin Weekes backed up Lundqvist and could get the start tonight....Dale Purinton was recalled from Hartford. He's still serving a 10-game suspension for attempting to injure Bruins rookie Colton Orr's eye in a preseason game....Chris Holt was sent down to Hartford....Jeff Taffe, acquired from Phoenix for Jamie Lundmark Tuesday didn't suit up.

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