UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Rick DiPietro returned to the goal just over two months after meniscus surgery. Bill Guerin scored twice to reach 400 NHL goals. But the most unusual aspect for the New York Islanders: they won.
DiPietro stopped 28 shots, and Kyle Okposo and Freddy Meyer added goals to give the Islanders their first win in 11 games, a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.
“It’s been a while,” Islanders defenceman Chris Campoli said. “We’ll take it.”
Guerin became the 79th NHL player, and the eighth U.S.-born player, to score 400 goals. He also is the third player to accomplish the feat in an Islanders uniform.
“It means a lot,” Guerin said. “It means I’ve been able to stick around this league for quite some time, and had some success at doing it. (Tonight’s) goals came at a good time. Everyone kept a good attitude and a good work ethic (during the losing streak).”
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson praised Guerin.
“That’s a tremendous milestone,” Wilson said. “I know Billy, and he’s a great guy and very deserving.”
New York was 0-9-1 since its last victory Nov. 29. Lee Stempniak scored for Toronto, and Vesa Toskala stopped 27 shots. The Maple Leafs have lost two straight after winning five of six.
DiPietro got involved early in the contest. He stopped the first two shots he saw, and then threw a pass up the right wall for Okposo, who skated into the Toronto zone and fired a sharp angle shot that hit Toskala and deflected in at 3:47.
“Anyone that knows me knows that patience isn’t one of my virtues,” DiPietro said. “It makes you realize how much you miss the game.”
Toskala said he was trying to deflect the puck into the corner.
“It hit the inside edge of my blocker,” Toskala said. “Some nights, it happens.”
With the assist, DiPietro broke Billy Smith’s franchise record for career points by a goalie with 14. DiPietro has 14 assists, while Smith had a goal and 13 assists.
DiPietro returned after missing 27 games following his second knee surgery in five months. Coming off surgery on his right knee in June, DiPietro had appeared in only three games this season, the last a one-period stint against Carolina on Oct. 25. He had arthroscopic surgery on Oct. 31 to repair a torn meniscus, but the Islanders wouldn’t reveal which knee was injured.
DiPietro said he decided that it was worth a shot to play.
“We talked about it coming into the week,” DiPietro said. “I practised on Monday and Tuesday, and went out and took some shots during the break. We came in today and decided to give it a whirl.”
Guerin gave New York a 2-1 lead at 6:27 of the second when he deflected Josh Bailey’s wrist shot off the post and in. Guerin netted No. 400 – his 13th of the season – early in the third period when he buried Chris Campoli’s shot past Toskala at 3:34.
Toronto forward Matt Stajan was not happy about any aspect of the game.
“I don’t think we played good in tonight’s game,” Stajan said. “We were sloppy and turned the puck over. We didn’t come out the way we wanted. It hurts us as a team that we know we let this one get away.”
Notes: Islanders defenceman Bruno Gervais returned after missing 13 games because of a leg injury. … The Islanders lost forward Andy Hilbert because of a hairline fracture to his foot. … New York chose to wear its white uniforms at home.