New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro (39) blocks a shot by New York Rangers\' Marcel Hossa during the second period of their hockey game, Monday at Madison Square Garden in N.Y. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
DiPietro made an Islanders-record 56 saves, but he came up one save shy in the shootout Monday night in the Rangers' 2-1 victory in the New York-New York matchup.
"It's my job to make as many saves as I can. I was able to do that for the most part," said DiPietro, who made a career-high 15th straight start. "It's always tough to lose."
DiPietro allowed only an early third-period goal to Petr Prucha, and a score by Matt Cullen in the second round of the shootout. That was enough to beat him in a game that had playoff implications and every bit of a post-season atmosphere.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made the biggest save when he stopped Randy Robitaille on the final shot of the tiebreaker. Cullen scored the only shootout goal, beating DiPietro over the blocker after freezing him with a head fake.
"It was a good move," DiPietro said. "He made a quick shot."
The Rangers' second straight shootout victory lifted them into a 10th-place tie in the Eastern Conference, two places and two points behind Carolina and the playoff cutoff. The seventh-place Islanders are three points ahead of Carolina.
Jason Blake scored the lone goal for the Islanders, who won the first four from the Rangers this season and have points in 18 of 20 games overall (12-2-6). The teams will meet three more times on Long Island, including Thursday night.
"We know we can play a lot better," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "We'll lick our wounds and get ready for the rematch."
The Rangers snapped a five-game losing streak to the Islanders. The streak matched their worst stretch against their biggest rival since the series began in 1972.
Lundqvist made 29 saves for the Rangers, who went 3-1-2 on a season-high, six-game homestand. Four were decided in shootouts.
"Huge points for us," Cullen said. "Nothing we can sit on because we play them in a couple of days."
In a first period otherwise dominated by the Rangers, the Islanders grabbed the lead with 1:43 left in the frame. Blake took advantage during the Islanders' first power play, sending a shot off the leg of Rangers defenceman Paul Mara that caromed past Lundqvist.
The Islanders' power play has gotten a recent jump-start with the acquisitions from Edmonton of forward Ryan Smyth and defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron. The unit clicked four times in seven chances during Smyth's first two games and went 7-for-20 in Bergeron's initial six.
Blake extended his career high with his 33rd goal.
The Rangers held a 17-6 shots advantage in the first period and 36-19 through 40 minutes, yet they couldn't dent DiPietro.
They needed only 26 seconds of the third to get even. Jed Ortmeyer fired a hard shot from inside the blue-line that DiPietro kicked out, but Prucha quickly got to the fat rebound and fired a shot over the goalie's glove for his 16th goal and third in seven games.
Then the action turned frantic as the Rangers sought their first lead.
They peppered DiPietro relentlessly around the seven-minute mark, forcing him to spin to make saves and keeping the puck buried in the Islanders' zone. He even deflected a shot with his blocker while facing away from the pressure.
"We wanted to shoot the most pucks we could at the net," Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr said. "Hopefully we are going to score some ugly goals. It didn't happen but maybe next game. He has to be tired after 50 shots."
Lundqvist was solid, too, but was bailed out when Andy Hilbert's shot during a breakaway hit the left post.
Sean Avery was at his agitating best in the opening five minutes of the game, goading DiPietro into punching him with a glove to draw a roughing penalty. But it was Avery who was left raising his arms in disgust and frustration when DiPietro stopped his shot in close with 5:46 left in regulation for save No. 50.
The Rangers put up 19 shots in the third period and allowed eight.
Notes: Rangers LW Martin Straka returned after missing three games (shoulder). But LW Marcel Hossa went out in the second period with a sprained MCL in his left knee. ... Islanders captain Alexei Yashin, who missed his 16th straight game (knee), is expected to return Thursday. ... The Islanders allowed 50 shots in a 5-4 shootout victory at Anaheim on Oct. 11. ... The only period the Islanders led in shots was overtime (3-2). ... Billy Smith and Felix Potvin both stopped 55 shots as Islanders.