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New York 3, Anaheim 1

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The New York Islanders are going to sink
or swim with Rick DiPietro in net.

DiPietro, coming off his fourth straight defeat, made 19 of his
career-high 45 saves in the third period and the Islanders snapped
a six-game winless streak with a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim
Mighty Ducks on Friday night.

One night earlier, DiPietro surrendered four goals on seven
shots in the second period of a 5-4 loss at San Jose. But
first-year coach Steve Stirling, who coached him in the minors,
wasn't about to let his 22-year-old goaltender spend an entire game
sitting at the end of the bench thinking about it.

"It was nice to have him show the confidence to throw me back
in there, especially with the games as important as they are coming
down the stretch," said DiPietro, the first overall pick in the
2000 draft. "We were able to clear out the front of the net
tonight and I was able to see a lot of the shots."

Until this recent slide, DiPietro had not lost consecutive
starts since early December.

"It was real important to put him back there," Stirling said.
"It's another test for a young kid who is making progress.

"He was going really well, but then he got hurt a little bit
and he didn't play in both Pittsburgh games when he was scheduled
to play. I think that set him back a little, but he was sharp as a
tack tonight and got back on track. He's been with me a long time,
and he usually comes back like this more often than not after a
game like last night."

Janne Niinimaa and Cliff Ronning each had a goal and an assist
for the Islanders, who increased their lead to six points over idle
Buffalo for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff seed
with 10 games left. Dave Scatchard scored into an empty net in the
final minute.

"We can't worry about the playoff race. We can't worry about
everyone else. We just have to worry about our next game,"
defenseman Jason Blake said. "We can only control what we do. The
playoffs are in our hands. And if we keep doing the things that
we've got to do, we can go as far as we want to. For us, it's just
consistency."

Samuel Pahlsson scored for the Ducks, who have lost three
straight for the first time since Dec. 21-27. Martin Gerber,
starting for the first time since Feb. 4 after a season-high 15
consecutive starts by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, made 26 saves.

"It was a good effort," Anaheim defenseman Keith Carney said.
"We worked hard and played our system pretty well. We worked
together as a team and had some quality chances, but it just wasn't
enough. You've got to give credit to their goaltender."

The Islanders took the lead for good late in the second period
after Ronning won a faceoff deep in the Anaheim zone. Niinimaa got
the puck from Kenny Jonsson and blasted a one-timer along the ice
that hopped off the blade of Gerber's stick, over his left shoulder
and across the goal line. Jonsson's assist was his 200th in the
NHL.

Gerber stopped 15 of 16 shots in the first period, including
seven by Scatchard. The only puck that eluded Gerber went in off
the left skate of Anaheim defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski, after
Ronning played the carom of Niinimaa's shot off the end boards and
made a blind backhand pass toward the front of the net.

The goal was the ninth this season for Ronning, who signed with
the Islanders on Jan. 9 and scored twice in Thursday's 5-4 loss at
San Jose.

The Islanders survived a two-man disadvantage for 49 seconds,
but Anaheim got a power-play goal with 2 seconds remaining on the
second penalty. Pahlsson got a pass from Petr Sykora at the right
of the net and beat DiPietro to the stick side late in the second
period to tie the score.<
^Notes: Anaheim LW Mike Leclerc, who has played just 10 games after
undergoing knee surgery June 26, decided Friday morning to shut it
down for the rest of the season. He sat out the Ducks' previous
five games because of soreness in his left knee. Leclerc has a year
left on his two-year contract, which he signed less than three
weeks after his surgery. ... The Islanders are 20-0-4 this season
when leading after two periods, and are unbeaten in the last 45
games in which they took a lead into the third period, 38-0-7. The
only team with a longer active streak is Dallas (60 games). ...
Islanders D Adrian Aucoin left the club to be with his wife
Caroline for the birth of their third child. ... C Shawn Bates
missed his second straight game because a groin strain.