ISLANDERS 3, BUFFALO 2
By Jason Lockhart
The rejuvenated Islanders, backed by Rick DiPietro's outstanding performance, stole Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena by the score of 3-2.
DiPietro made some incredible saves, including some in the final minute with the Sabres pressing. DiPietro came away with the win, stopping 32 of 34 shots. Marc-Andre Bergeron scored the game-winner on the power play midway through the third period with a blast from the point.
"DiPietro's competitive spirit really lifted up the team," said head coach Ted Nolan. "He had a great game."
Unlike in Game One, the Islanders came out with a lot of jump in their step, out-shooting the Sabres 16-10 in the first period. However, the Sabres found their game, and ultimately out-shot the Islanders 34-32 in the game. Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller made 29 saves in the losing effort.
"I felt good out there," said DiPietro. "The team did a tremendous job of letting me see the puck in the first period. It gave me chance to ease my way into the game. The defense did a good job of clearing rebounds."
The Islanders took a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Sabres clawed their way back to tie the game early in the third period, before Bergeron scored the game-winner.
Trent Hunter put the Islanders up 1-0, just 3:07 into the first period. After a combined effort from all five Islanders to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Mike Sillinger fired a shot, which was deflected by Hunter beyond Miller.
It became a 2-0 lead while the teams skated 4-on-4. Miroslav Satan won an offensive zone draw to Bruno Gervais, who had his shot from the point sneak through Miller's pads. The goal with 8:57 left in the opening period was Gervais' first of the season and his first career goal in the playoffs.
DiPietro came up with a spectacular save with just over six minutes remaining in the first period. Thomas Vanek found himself all alone in front, but DiPietro sprawled to make the save.
The Sabres cut the lead to 2-1 when Toni Lydman's screen shot got past DiPietro with 1:02 left in the first period.
The teams were held scoreless in the second period, setting up an intense finish to the game.
After multiple saves by DiPietro from directly in front, Dmitri Kalinin finally got one past DiPietro at 2:12 of the third period for a 2-2 tie.
But Bergeron at 8:57 of the third period, while on the power play, regained the Islanders' lead.
The Islanders went 1-for-4 with the man-advantage, while the Sabres were 0-for-5.
"You talk about a team with character," said Nolan. "We might not be the fastest team, but we might be the grittiest. You can't beat the atmosphere and intensity of playoff games. We're excited to go back to the Coliseum and see our fans fill the building."
Five Stars of the Game
1. Rick DiPietro: Didn't miss a beat after sitting out nearly a month
2. Marc-Andre Bergeron: A clutch goal to put the Islanders on top, 27:35 TOI
3. Toni Lydman: A goal and three blocked shots
4. Bruno Gervais: Scored his first goal of the season, and solid on defense
5. Dmitri Kalinin: Made the game interesting by tying the game in the third
Stat of the Game: The Islanders blocked 19 shots compared to the Sabres' 13.
Slapshots: The Islanders won their first playoff game since April 10, 2004...Rick DiPietro earned his second career playoff win...Ryan Smyth played in his 70th playoff game...Marc-Andre Bergeron has 22 points in 25 games with the Islanders.
39 Rick DiPietro
34 Wade Dubielewicz
32 Brendan Witt - 6 Sean Hill
3 Tom Poti - 47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
14 Chris Campoli - 8 Bruno Gervais
94 Ryan Smyth - 18 Mike Sillinger - 7 Trent Hunter
45 Arron Asham - 27 Randy Robitaille - 55 Jason Blake
79 Alexei Yashin - 25 Viktor Kozlov - 81 Miroslav Satan
11 Andy Hilbert - 10 Richard Park - 20 Richard Zednik
30 Ryan Miller
35 Ty Conklin
27 Teppo Numminen - 45 Dmitri Kalinin
51 Brian Campbell - 6 Jaroslav Spacek
5 Toni Lydman - 10 Henrik Tallinder
55 Jochen Hecht - 48 Daniel Briere - 29 Jason Pominville
12 Ales Kotalik - 23 Chris Drury -15 Dainius Zubrus
26 Thomas Vanek - 9 Derek Roy - 61 Maxim Afinogenov
22 Adam Mair - 19 Tim Connolly - 21 Drew Stafford