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Blake scores twice in return from injury

4/12/2004

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Don't let Rick DiPietro's calm demeanor fool
you.

The New York Islanders goalie is no different from any other player who has butterflies before a big game, even if his performance in Saturday's 3-0 playoff victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning suggests otherwise.

"I think everyone's nervous," the 22-year-old goaltender said.
"If you don't have jitters, then you better check your pulse
because this is a big time of year. Big circumstances."

DiPietro got his first postseason win in his second career
start, stopping all 22 shots to help the Islanders even the
best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series at one win
apiece.

Jason Blake returned from a high ankle sprain, expected to
sideline him for the entire series, and scored his first two career
playoff goals -- including an empty-netter with just under a minute
to go.

"Obviously, it's a special time of the year," said Blake, who
practiced Friday for the first time in more than two weeks, then
lobbied to play.

"A lot of guys only get to play in the playoffs once in their
career, and we've got a good team. I was sitting in the stands last
game -- just watching -- and it's tough to watch. ... I'm a
competitor, and I want to be out there."

Janne Niinimaa also scored his first playoff goal and added an
assist on Blake's second to help New York gain home-ice advantage.
Game 3 is Monday night at Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders had
one of the NHL's best home records this season (25-11-4-1).

"To go home is great, but it's going to take an effort like
that no matter where we play to continue to succeed," Islanders
coach Steve Stirling said.

"Long Island is a tough place to play when the crowd's going,
so we're looking forward to getting back and seeing our fans and
having them push us through these next two games," said DiPietro,
who four years ago became the first goaltender selected No. 1
overall in the NHL draft.

The closest the Lightning came to scoring was with just under 14
minutes to go, when Vincent Lecavalier kicked the puck and it went into the
net. The goal, which would've brought the Lightning within 2-1, was
disallowed after officials viewed a video replay.

The Islanders were done in by two turnovers by Eric Cairns in a
3-0 loss in Game 1. And while Stirling insisted he didn't hold the
defenseman responsible, Cairns didn't play Saturday -- replaced by
Sven Butenschon.

Without help from the kind of mistakes Cairns made to set up two
of Tampa Bay's three goals in the opener, the top-seeded Lightning
struggled to create good scoring opportunities against DiPietro.

Tampa Bay was 0-for-7 on the power play.

"Our penalty-killing did the job to negate any sort of momentum
shift in their favor," New York captain Michael Peca said.
"That's big because it allowed us in the third period to continue
to attack, get the second goal and go on to win from there."

Tampa Bay's Nikolai Khabibulin wasn't nearly as sharp as he was
in rejecting 30 shots in Game 1. Niinimaa's goal went between
Khabibulin's legs in the first period, and Blake made it 2-0 with a
shot from the left circle that got just inside the right post early
in the third.

The eighth-seeded Islanders won three of four from the Lightning
during the regular season and have played the first two games of
the playoffs exactly the way they feel they need to to make the series
tight.

Tampa Bay's top four scorers -- Martin St. Louis, Cory Stillman,
Brad Richards and Lecavalier -- were shut out for the second
straight game.

"I think some guys are fighting the puck a little bit. ... It
happens sometimes," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "I'm
not discouraged. I believe in this hockey club. We'll be ready to
play."

Game notes
St. Louis, the league scoring champion this season, has
been limited to four shots in the series. ... Stirling, one of two
first-year coaches leading teams to the playoffs this season, got
his first postseason win. ... Attendance was 19,982 -- announced as
a sellout even though there were large blocks of empty seats
throughout the upper level of the arena. ... Tampa Bay outshot the
Islanders 25-22 after being outshot 30-18 in the opener.