The streak is over.
Boosted by Rick DiPietro’s first shutout of the season, the Islanders snapped a 14-game winless skid with a 2-0 win over the Devils at Nassau Coliseum.
DiPietro’s 29-save performance and a tremendous third-period penalty kill helped the Islanders avoid history Friday. One more loss would’ve tied the team with the franchise-record worst winless streak—a 15-game skein in 1972-73.
“I almost forgot how to smile,” DiPietro said, alluding to the length of time that had passed since the Islanders' last win-- over a month ago against Tampa October 21.
DiPietro’s 16th career shutout came could not have come sooner for the slumping Islanders, who earned only three points during their 35-day winless span. Ironically, his last shutout—a 4-0 victory at Nassau Coliseum January 18, 2010—also came against the Devils.
“He made some big saves,” said Frans Nielsen, one of the game’s unsung heroes. “He was great for us tonight.”
Both Jesse Joensuu and Rob Schremp tallied for the Islanders to give their team its first two-goal lead since the fifth game of the season, a 5-2 win over Colorado at Nassau Coliseum October 16.
Joensuu, who was recalled from Bridgeport November 19, scored his first NHL goal of the season at 1:32, burying a nice feed from Nielsen for an early first-period lead.
The next period Blake Comeau connected with Schremp, who went top shelf on Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg for a two-goal cushion at 5:15 of the second.
With a two-goal lead in the third period, the Islanders stingy penalty kill delivered a tremendous effort to protect DiPietro’s shutout and secure a win.
Less than a minute after Dylan Reese went to the penalty box for interference, fellow defenseman James Wisniewski incurred a four-minute double-minor high-sticking penalty on Devils winger Mattias Tedenby at 11:06 in the third.
But the Islanders thwarted every attempt the Devils could offer, down two men for 58 seconds and down one for the remaining 3:02 of the penalty.
“Kills like that can turn a season around,” DiPietro said of the unit in front of him.
But interim head coach Jack Capuano made sure DiPietro took his appropriate share of the credit as well.
“We did a great job shot-blocking, getting in lanes and taking away seams, but your best penalty-killer is your goaltender and I thought Ricky was great.”
In his fifth game since replacing Scott Gordon, Capuano earned his first win as an NHL head coach.
“I’m just happy for the guys. I thought they played extremely well in Atlanta and against Columbus and we didn’t get two points, so this is a good feeling.”
With the 14 losses behind them, the Islanders now have their sights set on making up some much-needed ground.
“We can’t just be satisfied with one win,” Comeau said. “We can’t act like we’ve won 14 in a row. We’ve got to realize what gave us success tonight.”