DiPIETRO STARS IN SHOOTOUT WIN
By Kerry Gwydir
Wednesday's contest between the Islanders and Rangers featured a little bit everything, and there was plenty of excitement throughout as the bitter rivals faced off in the first of a home-and-home set at Madison Square Garden. A shutout had to decide this game, which the Islanders won to take the decision by a 3-2 score.
Rick DiPietro, back between the pipes after sustaining a concussion last week in Washington, was a big reason why the Islanders were in the game through the first two periods of the contest as he stopped 33 shots and rejected all three shootout shots. Miroslav Satan scored a powerplay marker during the game and added the lone goal in the shootout.
The Isles carried a 2-0 lead in the third, but a defensive mistake broke his shutout early in the third and Petr Prucha's powerplay marker with 4:37 left sent the game into the extra frame.
The first period was a penalty-fest for both teams as little of the opening period was played at even-strength. The Isles would get the first powerplay of the contest when Michal Rozsival was shipped off to the box 28 seconds in, but the hosts were the ones who carried the play by consistently taking the body and generating the best scoring chance during the visiting powerplay. A 2-on-1 developed with Alexei Zhitnik caught up ice for the Rangers late in the man-advantage, but DiPietro answered by coming up with a huge leg stop off Dominic Moore.
Penalty trouble then found the Isles way soon after when Jason Blake was shuttled to the box. The Isles extinguished that opportunity, but Brent Sopel was penalized just after those two minutes expired. DiPietro bailed the Isles out several times, including a dandy across-the-crease rejection off defenseman Marek Malik, who had a prime one-timer ticketed for the top corner of the goal.
DiPietro and the Isles' penalty killers continued to perform double-duty right after that as they were tagged with a bench minor for too many men on the ice nine minutes in. The Isles' keeper kept the hot hand going with two superb saves during that Rangers' powerplay - one on an in-tight chance from Martin Rucinsky, then a follow-up blast by Jaromir Jagr that the goaltender paddled aside. By the end of the third Rangers' man-up chance, they were out-shooting the Isles by a 12-3 margin midway through the opener.
The special teams' work continued 13 minutes in, this time with the Isles earning a two-man advantage at 1:36 after Mark Parrish was buried by a hard Maxim Kondratiev cross-check. Alexei Yashin immediately connected with 6:53 left in the period when the captain pounded in a rebound of a Zhitnik blast that Henrik Lundqvist initially stopped.
Stirling's team soon took the play in the opening 20 minutes to the hosts after that, and began to bang-and-grind the Rangers' defense. By the time the first 20 minutes ended, they had brought the shots total to a 14-12 margin for the Rangers.
The second began much like the first, with the Rangers spending the majority of the play in the Isles' end again. Their 8-0 shots advantage was indicative of the weighted advantage in play until Yashin got the Isles' first shot 8:31 in.
Late in the second, DiPietro continued his magic with Tomi Pettinen in the box with three minutes to go. With the Rangers buzzing, DiPietro made a superb reaction stop with his left leg pad off a Jagr snapshot from the right hashmark that was ticketed for the lower part of the Islander net. Once again, the Isles were badly outshot, this time by an 11-2 margin.
The final period saw exciting hockey at both ends of the rink. The Isles started the third period with a 5-on-3, and it paid off when Miroslav Satan netted his club's second powerplay tally of the night. The right wing's wrister from the top of the slot beat Lundqvist inside the left post at the :28 second mark. Yashin and Mark Parrish earned the assists on the play.
But the Rangers got a gift goal back at the 42 second-mark later when Pettinen scored an own goal past DiPietro as he attempted to intercept a cross-ice feed. The goal was credited to Jagr, who had floated the puck at the net in an attempt to find Martin Straka at the far post.
Both teams traded quality scoring chances in the minutes following the pair of tallies. But it was the Islanders who had two dandy opportunities denied, one on a one-time blast from Petteri Nokelainen at the left faceoff dot that Lundqvist rejected. On the same shift, Parrish beat the Rangers to a dump-in and fired off a blast from the slot that the Rangers' goaltender was quick to kick aside.
Just as the flow of the game was at a fever-pitch, the penalty march reared its head in the final seven minutes of the match. What could have been a critical penalty kill for the Isles occurred when Oleg Kvasha lost the puck at his own blueline, and then forced Yashin to chop Jagr down with 7:43 left in regulation. That, however, was negated when the Rangers' Martin Straka was whistled down for hooking Jason Blake.
The Isles managed to put themselves in a shorthanded hole just prior to Straka's penalty ending when Blake was sent to the box with five minutes left. And it was Rangers' rookie Petr Prucha re-directing a Fedor Tyutin point shot past DiPietro with 4:37 left in regulation.
With 1:16 left in the third, the Isles' powerplay, which had scored twice on the evening, received one more opportunity when Nylander took down Brad Lukowich in center ice. But the Isles failed to get a quality shot prior to regulation ending and could not convert.
Prucha nearly won the game in the final two minutes of overtime when he beat Brent Sopel to the outside with less than two minutes to go. His backhand try beat the Islander keeper, but hit the crossbar.
In the shootout, the Rangers had Prucha (stopped), Jagr (stopped-broke stick on shot) and Nylander (stopped) while the Islanders countered with Yashin (stopped), Satan (scored-low stick side) and Parrish (crossbar).
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(12) Oleg Kvasha-(29) Petteri Nokelainen-(37) Mark Parrish
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(21) Robert Nilsson-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(25) Brad Lukowich-(14) Chris Campoli
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(8) Tomi Pettinen
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(82) Martin Straka-(92) Michal Nylander-(68) Jarmoir Jagr
(26) Martin Rucinsky-(20) Steve Rucchin-(81) Marcel Hossa
(10) Ville Nieminen-(19) Blair Betts-(14) Jason Ward
(58) Petr Prucha-(18) Dominic Ward-(41) Jed Ortmeyer
(6) Darius Kasparaitis-(24) Maxim Kondratiev
(55) Fedor Tyutin-(18) Tom Poti
(8) Marek Malik-(3) Michal Rozsival
(30) Henrik Lundqvist
(80) Kevin Weekes