Scratch another significant milestone off Rick DiPietro's comeback to-do list.
First was his official return in Dallas Jan. 8. Next came his first win for the Islanders in his second start eight days later. DiPietro reached two more plateaus yesterday, playing in consecutive games for the first time in his comeback and earning his first shutout in nearly 23 months in the Islanders' 4-0 win over the Devils at Nassau Coliseum.
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DiPietro stopped 20 shots; the shutout, his first since Feb. 21, 2008, hardly was the labor-intensive eight-round shootout effort in which he earned his first victory two days earlier. Regardless, it led the Islanders to their fourth straight win.
"It felt great," DiPietro said. "The biggest thing is that we're winning. Tonight was another great effort by our guys."
Matt Moulson scored twice for his third multi-goal game of the season and the Islanders put on a phenomenal show for the sellout crowd of 16,250, plugging away for their sixth win in the past seven games.
The Islanders dominated the Devils (32-14-1) all over the ice with a fierce, frenetic and disciplined performance. They moved the puck with precision, outbattled New Jersey for practically every puck, stymied the Devils' chances in their own end and hammered Martin Brodeur with shots until former Islander Yann Danis replaced him in net in the third period.
Given the difficulty the Islanders have had this season against the Atlantic Division leaders, the win only added to the unmistakable swagger the Islanders have adopted of late.
"We've certainly had our share of struggles against the Devils this season," coach Scott Gordon said. "It was good to see us flip it on them."
Gordon said before the game that he wanted to see what DiPietro could do in consecutive games with minimal rest in between. DiPietro proved he's more than capable, earning back-to-back wins for the first time in almost two years.
"I'm sure he's probably just relieved to get two wins in a row and his first shutout against a team we really haven't had an answer for," Gordon said.
The Islanders lost their first two games against the Devils this season. But they have beaten three high-caliber teams - Detroit, Buffalo and New Jersey - in the past week and are 9-2-1 in their past 12 games.
"We've worked for everything we've gotten so far," Moulson said. "It's huge for our confidence beating these really good teams."
Had it not been for Brodeur, the Devils would have trailed by more than two goals after the first period. The Islanders' superiority was staggering as they relentlessly buzzed around the net and peppered Brodeur with shots.
Moulson opened the scoring at 1:07 of the first as he backhanded his own rebound past Brodeur, who made his 26th consecutive start. With the Islanders ahead 3-0 after a power-play goal by Mark Streit and a redirection by Josh Bailey, Moulson potted his second with a deflection of Andy Sutton's long slap shot at 18:05 of the second.
Although he's played in only three games, DiPietro said he can sense the chemistry that's developing and the direction in which the team is headed. The Islanders (22-19-8, 52 points) are only two points out of the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference.
"It's hard work," DiPietro said of the Islanders' surging confidence and results. "Everything we do has a purpose. We're just a group of guys who play for one another."