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Islanders win 6th straight, top Lightning 1-0 on Satan's goal

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - This New York Islanders victory had it all: spotless goaltending from Rick DiPietro, timely scoring from Miroslav Satan, and blissful quiet from Chris Simon.

The Tampa Bay Lightning never stood a chance.

Satan broke a scoreless tie in the third period and DiPietro stopped 32 shots for the New York Islanders, who welcomed back suspended forward Simon and won their sixth straight with a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

DiPietro was perfect in halting the Lightning's 10-game road run of earning at least one point (7-0-3). He blanked Tampa Bay for the second time this season despite New York missing key injured defencemen Brendan Witt, Andy Sutton, Bruno Gervais and Chris Campoli.

"Good living and good praying. I'm not sure what it is," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said.

Ever since the Islanders broke a seven-game skid on Feb. 12 with a win against Philadelphia, they have been unstoppable. New York is enjoying its best stretch since another six-game winning streak from Dec. 21-31, 2003, and has climbed back into the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

Simon returned from a record 30-game suspension levied by the NHL against him in December for his skate stomp on the back of the leg of Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu.

Simon took his first shift 2 1/2 minutes into the opening period, alongside rookies Blake Comeau and Frans Nielsen on the Islanders' fourth line, and heard a few cheers and louder boos when he hit the ice and touched the puck.

"The most important thing is that we won," he said. "My teammates have been so supportive and have been great to me. I can't control what other people think and how they react. I respect that they have their opinion, and I'm just going to keep working hard in gaining them back."

Simon skated five shifts in the first period and had 2:55 of ice time. Over the final 40 minutes he went out for four more shifts and another 3:22.

The biggest thing is he stayed out of trouble and didn't draw more ire from the fans or the officials.

"I didn't want to give him too much ice time too early, but I thought he did a great job for us," Nolan said. "Chris is a big boy and we're all professional athletes here. You take the good with the bad and unfortunately our fans chose to (boo)."

DiPietro posted his third shutout of the season, first in 40 games, and 14th in the NHL. He has allowed 12 goals in the winning streak.

The Islanders are in ninth place, but trail the three teams in front of them by just one point.

"The big thing is we wanted to get back to playing smart hockey and the kind of hockey we are successful with," DiPietro said. "Just when everyone had us written off and it looks like we aren't going to be able to compete anymore, we find a way to win."

Karri Ramo made 27 saves in the loss.

Tampa Bay is last in the Eastern Conference with 57 points and expects to be a seller leading up to Tuesday's trade deadline. These could be the final games in Lightning uniforms for defenceman Dan Boyle and forward Brad Richards, who are drawing great interest from contending teams.

"We just have to keep fighting and keep trying," Boyle said. "A loss is frustrating, no matter which way it happens. It's a crucial two points lost."

Ramo and DiPietro were locked in a duel until Satan took a pass in the slot from Sean Bergenheim and snapped a drive past sliding defenceman Filip Kuba and into the net 5:37 into the third.

"I picked the spot," Satan said. "I had enough time to look at him and freeze him and I was happy to beat him."

Lightning coach John Tortorella gave Ramo the nod one night after Johan Holmqvist couldn't protect a 3-1 lead late in regulation at Buffalo. Sabres forward Thomas Vanek scored twice in the final 2 1/2 minutes to tie it and then finished his hat trick with the winning goal in overtime.

The Islanders returned home after a stirring comeback victory in a shootout at Washington on Wednesday.

The Lightning had two power-play chances in the first period and another in the second, but couldn't get a shot past DiPietro, who made 18 saves before the third. He appeared to stop Boyle's snap shot with his mask late in the middle frame.

Ramo, in his second start in eight games, was busier through 40 minutes. He turned aside all 21 Islanders shots.

DiPietro dropped to his back with five minutes remaining in the game to cover a loose puck after Vincent Lecavalier's shot rang off the left post.

"It could have hit something and gone in. What can you do?" Lecavalier lamented. "The chances are there, they're just not going in."

Notes: Islanders D Drew Fata earned an assist, giving him two career NHL points in five games. He was recalled from the AHL after Andy Sutton tore a hamstring Monday. ... Tortorella is one win from tying Bob Johnson (234) for most NHL victories by an American-born coach.


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