DiPietro steals the show

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Boyd Devereaux (left) tries to put one by New York Islanders' Randy...

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Boyd Devereaux (left) tries to put one by New York Islanders' Randy Robitaille and goalie Rick DiPietro during NHL action at the ACC on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Dave Thomas)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

To understand just how monstrous Rick DiPietro's whopping 15-year contract with the New York Islanders is, we offer some perspective.

When DiPietro is in the final year of that historic deal, Mats Sundin will turn 50.

That's a long time for the Leafs captain to curse out the Islanders goalie, who stole a victory from Sundin's Maple Leafs last night.

And on Sundin's 36th birthday, no less.

On a night the Leafs easily dominated play and outshot the visitors 41-20, DiPietro overshadowed Toronto's No. 13 by copping first star honours in a 3-2 shootout victory over the hosts at the Air Canada Centre.

Sundin did his part in the quest for victory, scoring Toronto's lone shootout goal. But it wasn't enough to offset shootout goals by the Isles' Frans Nielson and Viktor Kozlov, propelling New York into a ninth-place tie with the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings with 62 points.

Asked if Sundin still had some juice left in his aging tank, DiPietro laughed.

"Didn't you see that shootout goal he scored?" DiPietro said, referring to Sundin's bullet that whizzed into the top corner. "He's a great player, one of the best in the league.

"The Leafs are a tough team to beat at home. I don't think we've won here in five years."

Actually, Rick, the Leafs have been anything but difficult to beat at the Air Canada Centre this season, going just 11-12-5 on home ice. That includes a 6-5 overtime setback to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday followed by the disappointing shootout loss last night.

"The important thing is, we have to keep our heads up," Sundin said. "We can't have any letdowns mentally or feel sorry for ourselves. If we do that, we definitely won't be in the playoffs.

"One point tonight is huge but we wanted two. We are not happy with this outcome and the game versus Pittsburgh."

Sundin gave DiPietro his due credit, but also found fault in the Leafs lack of finishing.

"Their goaltender was great, but we didn't bear down on our chances," the birthday boy said. "We have to be better at that."

The key point of the game came five minutes into the third period when DiPietro made one of the most spectacular saves of the season.

With the scored knotted at 2-2, Sundin ripped a shot that DiPietro kicked into the slot. Tomas Kaberle jumped on the juicy rebound and drilled it at the empty net only to see it plunk into the catching mitt of a diving DiPietro.

"I got a lot on the shot, but he jumped across and it went right into his glove," Kaberle said. "It was that type of night. We didn't play bad but they just weren't going in for us."

Pavel Kubina and Bates Battaglia scored for the Leafs while Trent Hunter and Miro Satan replied in regulation for the visitors.

The Leafs now travel to Philadelphia for a game tomorrow against a Flyers team they can not take lightly. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings, who were whipped 6-1 by the Flyers on Monday.

"We started the night two points out of a playoff spot and we finished the night two points out of a playoff spot," coach Paul Maurice said. "We just have to keep scratching and clawing."

REPORT CARD

B - Forwards: Peppered Isles goalie RickDiPietro with rubber in the third period and had every right to be getting frustrated.

B Defence: Limited the Islanders to few scoring chances, made crisp passes out of their own end, and even scored a goal courtesy of Pavel Kubina.

B Goaltending: Andrew Raycroft seems much more composed and in control than he was a month ago when the Air Canada Centre fans booed him off the ice after a loss to Vancouver.


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