Rick DiPietro had long envisioned what his first win of the season would feel like.

But when the time came—as chants of “D-P” surged through the crowd of 13,635 at Nassau Coliseum and Patrick Kaleta missed wide, failing to answer Trent Hunter’s decisive goal in the eighth round of the shootout-- it managed to surpass his lofty expectations.

“It felt even better,” said DiPietro, who led the Islanders to a 3-2 win over Buffalo last night.

DiPietro certainly did not lack for a grand stage in his first home start since December 26, 2008. In a thrilling shootout that had the crowd on its feet, DiPietro outlasted Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. While DiPietro made several clutch saves, Rob Schremp, Matt Moulson, John Tavares and Hunter all scored to edge the Sabres 4-3 in the shootout.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to cry on the ice,” a jubilant DiPietro said after his second start. “But this is an emotional time for me.”

The significance of the achievement was not lost on DiPietro's teammates, who rallied around him and played a terrific game in front of him all night.

"He was awesome tonight," said defenseman Andy Sutton. "He looked like the Rick of old."

DiPietro was plenty strong in his second start of the season. And he got results after making 31 saves in regulation and five in the shootout.

"I think he is a guy who likes the spotlight," coach Scott Gordon said. "I don't think that's something he fears."

He got a sniff of action early in the game, making a nice save on Tim Connolly’s sharp-angle shot 26 seconds into play and turning away three additional shots in the first 53 seconds.

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DiPietro stopped all 11 Sabres attempts to boast an unblemished first period, and rookie John Tavares gave him a cushion at the other end.

While trailing the Sabres in shots 8-2, the Islanders took a 1-0 lead with Tavares’ slump-busting goal in the first period.

Tavares terminated his nine-game goalless streak as he lifted a rebound and banked the puck off the crossbar for his 17th goal this season at 5:38.

DiPietro didn’t face much pressure in the second; meanwhile the Islanders pegged Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller relentlessly, edging the Sabres 21- 6 in shots on goal in the second period.

DiPietro did not give up a goal until 15:54 in the second.

21 seconds after Sean Bergenheim gave the Islanders a two-goal lead with his backdoor deflection, Michael Grier redirected Tim Connolly’s shot for the Sabres’ first tally of the game.

Buffalo’s stingy penalty-killing unit thwarted all 4 of the Islanders’ power-play attempts, improving their record to an impressive 39-for-41 in the past ten games.

A borderline call cost the Islanders a 2-goal lead as Richard Park’s goal at 6:32 was waived off when Andy Sutton got tangled up with Sabres defenseman Chris Butler near the crease and made incidental contact with Miller.

Drew Stafford then unearthed a rebound down low and slid past DiPietro to tap in the tying goal at 9:35.

But DiPietro notched the win in the shootout and was still struggling to articulate his emotions after the victory.

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"I can't even tell you how this feels."