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Comrie scores 2 for Isles, who spoil Blake return with OT victory over Leafs

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Wade Dubielewicz won the matchup of backup goalies, and did it without the benefit of the New York Islanders' big first period.

Dubielewicz relieved injured starter Rick DiPietro at the beginning of the second period and stopped 21 of 22 shots, spoiling Jason Blake's return to Long Island in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.

"I keep an eye on Ricky every day just in case something happens," Dubielewicz said after his fifth appearance. "I kind of knew that I might be in. Sometimes, you don't want to know in advance that you might play, because it gives you time to think, and you can think too much."

Blake was given a brief video tribute just before the opening faceoff and was greeted with mostly cheers from the fans who appreciated his five-plus seasons with the Islanders. The gritty forward left as a free agent in the summer after scoring a career-best 40 goals.

The video board thanked him for his hustle, and the Islanders beat him with a dose of it in the nick of time.

"Obviously coming back, it was good," Blake said. "You wanted to win the hockey game and get it done."

Mike Comrie scored with 9.6 seconds showing on the overtime clock on a rush after Dubielewicz stoned the Maple Leafs at the other end. Blake had a chance, but Richard Park knocked the puck away.

"We only got so many seconds left in overtime, I was trying to make a play," Blake said. "Parkie made a great play by poke-checking it."

Comrie, who also scored in New York's three-goal first period, got to a rebound of Park's shot and put it past backup Andrew Raycroft shortly after a Maple Leafs power play expired.

Raycroft hadn't played since Nov. 24 when he was pulled in the first period of a loss to Phoenix.

"I was hoping to at least get to a shootout," he said. "All I've done the last month and a half is shootouts. I wanted to see if some of that work was going to pay off."

Andy Hilbert and Bill Guerin also scored in an unusually productive first period for the Islanders to stake DiPietro to a lead. But a knee injury sustained in pre-game warmups forced him out early.

Dubielewicz had a much better showing than his previous outing against Toronto, an 8-1 loss on Oct. 11. New York has won three straight, including consecutive home victories in overtime.

He was especially sharp in the extra session when Toronto had the last of its four power plays.

"That big guy (Nikolai Antropov) that was standing in front, if any puck got past him, I was dead," Dubielewicz said. "I had a hard time seeing anything."

Alexander Steen and Mark Bell scored in the first period for Toronto, and Steen tied it at three in the third. The Maple Leafs are 1-2-2 in their last five, all on the road.

Raycroft, a surprise starter for Toronto after Vesa Toskala felt tightness in his groin during the morning skate, played for the first time in 13 games and stopped 24 shots. His best saves came in the final minute of regulation when he denied Mike Sillinger on consecutive shots.

Raycroft will likely be back in the nets Thursday when the Maple Leafs conclude their seven-game road trip at Philadelphia.

DiPietro won't make the trip to Ottawa for Thursday night's game against the Senators.

"He felt good enough in warmup and wanted to give it a try," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "He'll take an MRI and see what the damage is. We give him full marks for giving it a try."

The Maple Leafs got even 1:15 into the third period, while killing New York's second power play.

Steen, who entered with two goals in 22 games, had his first multigoal game of the season. It was his seventh overall and the seventh short-handed tally allowed by the Islanders, tied for the most in the NHL.

That cost DiPietro a chance to break a third-place tie on the Islanders career victory list with Kelly Hrudey (106). He stopped seven of nine shots and earned his third assist of the season before leaving.

The three goals matched New York's best first period of the season. The Islanders hadn't managed as many as two since they netted three in the opening 20 minutes of the season on Oct. 5 at Buffalo.

This one didn't start well for New York, as Steen put Toronto ahead 1-0 at 6:13.

New York needed only 49 seconds to tie it, when a rebound of Bryan Berard's wide shot came to Hilbert by the right post. He settled the puck, spun and put a shot past Raycroft.

Toronto went ahead again at 13:02 when Bell took a pass in front from Darcy Tucker and pushed it past DiPietro for his first goal in 10 games.

The Islanders got even at two when Comrie scored 3:18 later. Park sent Comrie in on a breakaway after DiPietro got him the puck with a fine pass from his end.

Guerin moved into a three-way tie with Comrie and Josef Vasicek for the Islanders' goal lead when he gave New York its first lead of the night, 3-2 with 47.4 seconds left in the first.

Comrie took the goal lead back when he won the game with his 11th.

Notes: Islanders D Radek Martinek didn't play due to a bruised right leg. Berard, scratched the previous five games, replaced him in the lineup. ... Toronto has scored four short-handed goals. ... Hilbert has three goals in eight games after netting one in the first 27.


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