UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The crowd chanted Rick DiPietro’s name as the clock ticked down on his first shutout in almost two years.
DiPietro, who missed first three months of the season while recovering from knee injuries, stopped 20 shots and Matt Moulson scored twice, leading the New York Islanders to a 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
The Islanders have four straight wins, matching a season high, and the return of their star goalie is giving fans even more hope that things are looking up for a team that has been down for a while.
Coming off a 31-save effort against Buffalo on Saturday, DiPietro looked sharp in making his first back-to-back starts since Oct. 25, 2008.
“It’s a big step for me,” DiPietro said. “It was good to get a routine down. I’m starting to feel more comfortable.”
The 28-year-old earned his 15th career shutout and first since Feb. 21, 2008, against Tampa Bay.
New York has won six of seven overall and will head to Pittsburgh to face the defending Stanley Cup champions on Tuesday.
It was Moulson’s third multigoal game this season. Mark Streit and Josh Bailey also had goals for the Islanders, who chased NHL career wins leader Martin Brodeur before the start of the third period.
“Beating really good teams is huge for our confidence,” Moulson said. “We want to be in position to go down the stretch and be in the hunt. It seems everything is coming together and the whole team is rolling at once.”
The Islanders fired 45 shots on net and blocked 26 to take pressure off DiPietro, who made his third start after coming back from knee injuries.
Brodeur allowed four goals on 32 shots in two periods in his 33rd straight appearance. The Devils were shut out for the first time this season – the last time they failed to score was March 30, 2009, against the New York Rangers.
“We have to make a special effort of getting ourselves prepared to play right from the get-go,” Brodeur said. “Today was just a bad game.”
The Devils staggered at the close of a five-game road swing, dropping the last three after one-goal wins over the Rangers and Montreal. Still, New Jersey entered tied for the league lead in road wins.
“We looked tired and I don’t think we were sharp mentally making plays,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire. “There’s no doubt we need rest.”
Bailey and Moulson scored 2:23 apart in the second to build a 4-0 lead. Former Islander Yann Danis replaced Brodeur before the third period.
Moulson energized the sellout crowd on his first shift, backhanding his own rebound between Brodeur’s pads 1:07 in.
“I just tried to get it off quick and it bounced right back to me,” Moulson said. “It made a couple of lucky bounces. I don’t know how it went in. I think I fanned on it and it went through his five-hole, but I’ll take it.”
Streit ripped a shot from the right point past a screened Brodeur for a power-play goal 2:36 later. Streit has three goals in the past four games after going 26 games without one.
New Jersey had one power-play chance and failed to produce a shot with the extra man. The tight defence in front allowed DiPietro to shine in his second game in three days.
“It wasn’t a test,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “It was an opportunity to try to find a way for him to get a lot of reps in a short amount of time and see situations with a quick turnover. I thought it would pay dividends down the road.”
Jack Hillen started a rush to set up Bailey’s goal at 15:42 of the second. Devils defenceman Brian Rolston couldn’t handle a bouncing puck after Hillen’s shot was blocked. Bailey slammed it home in front of the crease.
Bailey’s goal marked his fifth in the last nine games. The Islanders scored four or more goals for the third time in four games.
Moulson capped the scoring by tipping Andy Sutton’s point shot through traffic. The goal was originally credited to Sutton before being changed.
Moulson leads the Islanders with 19 goals. His previous multigoal game was a hat trick Dec. 3 against Atlanta.
NOTES: Devils LW Patrik Elias (shoulder) didn’t play, one game after he left the ice on a stretcher following a hard check by Colorado’s Ryan Wilson. … Islanders RW Kyle Okposo got an assist on Streit’s goal to extend his points streak to six games. … Trent Hunter added two assists. … Sutton earned his 100th career assist on Moulson’s second goal. … New Jersey outscored the Islanders 8-2 combined in the first two meetings this season.