<
>

DiPietro pitches shootout shutout; Isles beat Leafs

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have no easy ones during their seven-game homestand.

That includes a game against the team they started the night tied with: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After coming back from a two-goal deficit, Randy Robitaille capped the comeback by scoring the only goal of the shootout to lead the Islanders to a 3-2 victory over the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

"I was watching him with the other shooters, and I know he's good low," Robitaille said of Toronto goalie Andrew Raycroft. "I knew what I wanted to do before I shot."

The Islanders chose to go first in the shootout, and Robitaille connected after misses by Miroslav Satan and Viktor Kozlov.

Toronto missed all three of its chances against Rick DiPietro, who turned aside John Pohl, Mats Sundin and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Trent Hunter scored twice in regulation for New York, while DiPietro stopped 27 shots. The win moved the Islanders one point ahead of the Maple Leafs in the race for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. New York has 68 points (30-23-8) but trails eighth-place Carolina by a point.

The Islanders have gained points in 13 of their last 15 games (9-2-4).

"You look at the standings, and every game we play is important," Robitaille said. "We're not looking during the game, but I can guarantee you that afterward, the guys are checking other scores to see how the race is shaping up."

Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan scored for Toronto, which is 7-2-3 since the All-Star break. Raycroft was solid in the loss, stopping 28 shots.

Each team committed one major giveaway in the first period, but neither opportunity led to a goal. Toronto defenseman Bryan McCabe threw a cross-ice pass in front of his own net, where Mike Sillinger picked the puck off, but his shot hit Raycroft right in the chest.

DiPietro threw the puck directly at Alex Steen in the left circle and Steen quickly fired at the vacated net, but defenseman Chris Campoli covered just enough ice to get a piece of the shot and deflect it away.

"Yeah, that wasn't very good," DiPietro said. "Good thing it didn't cost us."

The Islanders outshot Toronto 16-9 in the period, including seven shots during a power play.

DiPietro took his turn to rob Steen around seven minutes into the second period. Steen, all alone by the right post, sent a shot toward an empty net, but DiPietro dived and got his stick on the goal line and blocked the puck before it crossed.

Steen picked up an assist on the opening goal, scored by Stajan at 11:34. Stajan, skating straight up the slot, had Steen's pass deflect off his left skate between DiPietro's pads for a 1-0 lead.

Ponikarovsky made it 2-0 at 13:37 on a harmless-looking shot from the left boards. The puck deflected off the skate of defenseman Brendan Witt past DiPietro.

"They got two lucky goals, both off skates," Sillinger said. "We were playing well, and we didn't let that affect us."

Hunter put the Islanders on the board with 57.1 seconds left in the period when he tipped Sean Hill's right point shot past Raycroft.

Sundin had an apparent goal at 2:37 of the final period disallowed, as it was ruled there was incidental contact by one of the Maple Leafs with DiPietro in the crease.

Hunter tied it with 6:04 left in the final period on a tip-in of Tom Poti's left point shot while New York was on its fifth power play of the night.

"We talked about keeping things simpler on the power play," Hunter said. "It was nice to be able to get a couple of goals like that."

Raycroft kept it tied with a brilliant diving pad save on Marc-Andre Bergeron with 4:50 left.

The Islanders had the best chance to score in the five-minute overtime, but Jason Blake's shot from the left side clanged off the right post halfway through the extra session.

Raycroft said he wished the Maple Leafs came away with two points, but one point is better than none.

"It's frustrating, but we got a point," Raycroft said. "We're right there [in the playoff chase]. It's not like we lost eight points. If you're going to lose, at least get a point out of it."

What made the Islanders happy was their ability to battle back to win. This was their fifth victory when trailing after two periods (5-21-0).

"Ever since the All-Star break, we've been playing with a lot of confidence," DiPietro said. "We don't want to be in the position where we have to come back, but we're not afraid of it if it happens."

Game notes
New York has points in five straight home games against the Maple Leafs (4-0-1). ... Toronto has the most road points in the NHL with 38 (17-10-4). ... Blake welcomed his third child Wednesday as his wife, Sara, gave birth to their second daughter, Annabelle Marie.