DiPietro back in net, Captain scores milestone goal as Isles top Leafs 4-1
By Tom Liodice
Rick DiPietro made a victorious return to the Nassau Coliseum ice and Bill Guerin scored his 400th career goal as the Islanders defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on Friday night.
Guerin scored his 399th and 400th goals of his career, Blake Comeau contributed with two assists and Kyle Okposo recorded a goal and an assist.
"It was a relief to finally get it," said Guerin, who is the eighth American-born player and 79th player in NHL history to reach the 400-goal mark. "Guys were working really hard to get it for me. I give them a lot of credit."
Okposo got the Islanders on the board first at 3:47 of the first period thanks to an unusual bounce off of Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala. After taking a lead pass from DiPietro, Okposo skated into the Toronto zone and threw the puck towards the net. The puck took a funny carom off of Toskala's blocker and found its way into the net to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
Toskala is no stranger to unusual goals at the Nassau Coliseum. The Toronto netminder was victim to a bouncing, 190-foot goal from then-Islander defenseman Rob Davison last season on March 18.
The returning DiPietro thought it was a well-deserved goal for Okposo.
"Okie just drove to the net," said DiPietro. "He deserves it. He's been working hard. That line has been working great for us the past two games."
Lee Stempniak evened up the game for Toronto at 15:44 of the first period with his fifth goal of the season. Stempniak pounced on a healthy rebound off of DiPietro's pads from a Jaime Sifers slapshot. The Toronto winger caught the Islanders goaltender out of position and slid the puck past an outstretched leg of DiPietro to tie the game 1-1.
Immediately following Stempniak's goal, Tim Jackman and Andre Deveaux dropped the gloves in front of the Islanders bench. Both men took the fight out toward the center ice logo before wrestling each other to the ice.
Guerin gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 6:27 of the second period. After a flurry of blocked shots, Josh Bailey corralled the puck in the slot and fired a wrist shot towards Toskala. With Guerin screening the Toronto netminder, the Islanders captain deflected the puck past Toskala for his 12th goal of the year.
Guerin scored his 400th career goal at 2:14 of the third period to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead. Leading a 2-on-1 rush, Chris Campoli dished a cross-ice pass over to Guerin. Toronto defenseman Jonas Frogren defelcted the pass, but Guerin was able to corral the puck and put it past Toskala. The goal was Guerin's 13th of the season.
Guerin remembers his first goal, which came 16 years ago on October 28, 1992 against the Hartford Whalers in the Hartford Civic Center.
"You never forget your first one," said Guerin. "It was a long time ago, but it was at the old mall in Hartford. You cherish every one of them and hope it's never the last."
For Campoli, it was an honor to be involved in a milestone goal.
"It was great to be a part of it," said Campoli. "He's a great player, a great guy, a great captain. It's pretty cool I was able to get an assist on that. We all couldn't be happier for Billy."
The Islanders took a 4-1 lead at 8:39 of the third period on Freddy Meyer's fourth goal of the season. Meyer fired a slapshot from the top of the blueline, which deflected off a diving Maple Leaf defenseman and past Toskala for the final score of the game.
Three Stars of the Game: 1. Bill Guerin: Two goals, including 400th career goal 2. Rick DiPietro: 27 saves in his return to net 3. Blake Comeau: Two assists. Honorable Mention: Kyle Okposo– goal and assist, +2
Modells Amateur Hockey Award Winner Fred Ohdres
Slapshots: The Islanders outshot Toronto 31-29...Rick DiPietro's assist is his 14th career point, which moves him ahead of Bill Smith (1 goal, 12 assists) as the all-time point leader for Islanders goaltenders...Andy Hilbert left the game in the second period with a hairline fracture in his foot and did not return...Islanders scratches were Doug Weight (groin), Jon Sim (healthy), Mitch Fritz (healthy)...With Doug Weight scratched, the Islanders first power play unit had a new look with Kyle Okposo on the point... The Islanders wore their "road whites" because Toronto was asked by the Capitals to wear their blue jerseys when the Maple Leafs visit Washington on Sunday for Mike Gartner night. Rather than Toronto bringing two sets of jerseys, the Islanders offered to wear their whites...Friday night's Modells Amateur Hockey Award Winner was Fred Ohdres...Attendance was 15,173.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
35 Vesa Toskala
31 Curtis Joseph
77 Pavel Kubina - 15 Tomas Kaberle
59 Jaime Sifers - 4 Jeff Finger
24 Jonas Frogren - 7 Ian White
80 Nik Antropov - 14 Matt Stajan - 23 Alexei Ponikarovsky
12 Lee Stempniak - 84 Mikhail Grabovski - 9 Niklas Hagman
55 Jason Blake - 19 Dominic Moore - 18 Jeremy Williams
41 Nikolai Kulemin - 39 John Mitchell - 56 Andre Deveaux
1 - 0 NYI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYI