CALGARY – Mike Sillinger showed Friday night that you’re never too old to learn.
After being stopped by Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo on his shootout attempt in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Canucks, the 37-year-old New York Islanders forward changed his approach Friday in scoring on Miikka Kiprusoff.
Along with his shootout goal, Sillinger scored twice in regulation to help the New York Islanders to a 5-4 victory over the Calgary Flames.
“I learned from the other night with Luongo, I tried to wait him out and throw it upstairs and he just snagged it so easy,” said Sillinger. “Tonight I went in with some good speed and caught him backing up. These goalies now a days are so good, they’re not going to make a move first. You’re going to have to go in there with some speed and have in your mind what you’re going to do.”
Sillinger’s goal tied the shootout after Kristian Huselius had put Calgary ahead 1-0.
After Jarome Iginla missed, Richard Park followed with a goal and DiPietro clinched the win with a stop on Owen Nolan.
“You got a chance to see tonight why our goalie Rick DiPietro is going to the all-star game and how valuable he really is to this team,” said Islanders coach Ted Nolan. “If it wasn’t for the play of him, we probably wouldn’t have been in this hockey game.”
Through the first four games of the Islanders’ five-game road trip, DiPietro has faced an average of 39.5 shots. The Flames fired a season-high 42 shots.
“Everyone knew this road trip was going to be a big challenge, all the teams we’ve played so far have been good teams,” Dipietro said. “We’ve fought hard, we’ve gotten some points and tonight we got a much-needed two points.”
Trent Hunter and Ruslan Fedotenko also scored for New York (21-17-5). With the win, the Islanders moved past the Boston Bruins into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. New York has lost just twice in regulation in the past 11 games (6-2-3).
Nolan had two, Craig Conroy and Dustin Boyd also scored for Calgary (22-25-8). The Flames moved back into a tie for first place in the Northwest Division with the Vancouver Canucks.
Calgary’s best opportunity of the third period came with five minutes remaining when Sillinger was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking Dion Phaneuf. But the Flames couldn’t get the game-winner past DiPietro despite having the puck in the Islanders zone most of the time.
“We had a good power-play tonight, we moved it around really well and had really good chances, but DiPietro played very well,” said Iginla. “On another night, we get those same chances, we move it the same way, we’ll score. Unfortunately we didn’t do it tonight.”
Trailing 3-1, Calgary stormed back in the second period getting three unanswered goals to go ahead 4-3. The lead was short-lived as 83 seconds after Boyd’s goal from a scramble broke the tie, the Islanders evened the score when Fedotenko redirected Marc-Andre Bergeron’s point shot over the shoulder of Miikka Kiprusoff.
“We generated a lot in the second period, but to start the game we were shooting from the outside. We just weren’t working hard enough to get the second and third chances,” said Nolan.
Tied 1-1 in the first period, Hunter’s goal at 15:59, 17 seconds after Nolan had tied the score put the Islanders back into the lead. Sillinger notched his second of the game 69 seconds after that.
“It’s not too often that we have a two or three-goal lead and we don’t know how to play with them very well,” said Nolan. “But everytime we’re in a close game, we seem to play better and that’s because we have so much confidence and faith in Ricky that he’s going to keep us in those games.”
Kiprusoff finished with 21 saves amidst swirling rumours before the game that the Flames are one of the teams free agent goaltender Curtis Joseph is considering signing with.
Prior to the game, Flames GM Darryl Sutter was tight-lipped on the rumour Friday that Calgary and the San Jose Sharks were the two teams Joseph was deciding between.
Sutter did acknowledge that Kiprusoff, who has started all but one of the Flames 45 games, could use some time off. He also admitted that having a veteran back-up goaltender can give a team more confidence as the playoff races intensify. Current back-up Curtis McElhinney has only 131 minutes of NHL experience to his credit.
“If we have any problem with our goaltending, it’s that he’s played a lot,” said Sutter of Kiprusoff. “It’s probably no different than anybody that’s looking at an experienced goaltender, they’re probably in the same boat as us. Experience gives you another chance if you are in the playoff race or you are fighting for the division title and it also gives everyone the confidence.”
Notes: Calgary LW Eric Nystrom did not play missing his first chance to play against his dad Bob’s former team. Nystrom got a puck in the teeth Tuesday night against Phoenix and had to have extensive dental work done. Nystrom did practise on Thursday wearing a full face shield. … Nystrom’s injury enabled veteran C Wayne Primeau to get back in the line-up after being a healthy scratch the past two games and four of the last five. … NY Islanders RW Miroslav Satan sat out for the first time this year with a sprained knee. … It was the Islanders first visit to Calgary since Jan. 15, 2002.