DiPietro and Guerin combine as Islanders beat Leafs
So that's what the New York Islanders have been missing.
Rick DiPietro won his first game since late October and Bill Guerin contributed his 399th and 400th NHL goals to lead the host Islanders to a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night on Long Island.
The win ended New York's 10-game losing string and sent a message out that the league's worst club may be less of a pushover with their star goaltender back in the crease.
DiPietro hadn't played since Oct. 18 while rehabbing a knee, but he looked sharp in picking up his first victory of the season as the Islanders improved to 11-21-3.
"Anyone that know me knows that patience isn't one of my virtues," DiPietro said afterwards. "It makes you realize how much you miss the game."
Toronto, 1-7 in its last eight Boxing Day games, lost for the second straight time and fell to 14-15-6.
Kyle Okposo in the first and Freddy Meyer in the third were the bookends around Guerin's goals, while Lee Stempniak had the lone Toronto marker.
DiPietro sharp all night
Leading 2-1 in the third, DiPietro made a nice save in tight off Alex Ponikarovsky that seemed to inspire the Islanders, who have been truly horrible in December.
Guerin, with one goal to his credit, then picked up No. 2 from a familiar spot on the edge of the crease.
Toronto starter Vesa Toskala made a good stop on Chris Campoli but lost track of the disk as it dribbled to his left where Guerin, standing right there, tapped it in for a 3-1 lead at 2:34.
"It means a lot," Guerin said of reaching the milestone. "It means I've been able to stick around this league for quite some time, and had some success at doing it.
"[Tonight's] goals came at a good time. Everyone kept a good attitude and a good work ethic."
Six minutes after Guerin's second marker, Meyer's shot from the point found a hole between the left arm and body of Toskala to wrap up the scoring on the night.
Rough start for Toskala
Toskala, who gave up seven goals before getting pulled on Tuesday night at home to Dallas, didn't give coach Ron Wilson reason for optimism early on.
Okposo broke down the right side on a transition set up by DiPietro, went very deep and just fired a puck towards the net hoping for any kind of bounce.
He got two, as first the puck glanced off defenceman Jeff Finger's stick, and then it hit the inside of Toskala's blocker and sailed in for a 1-0 lead.
"It hit the inside edge of my blocker," Toskala said. "Some nights, it happens."
That was the 23rd time this season the Leafs have given up the opening goal against 12 times they've jumped out in front.
Toronto tied it 1-1 at 15:44 on a goal Stempniak created with his own hard work.
The winger, acquired back in late November from St. Louis, set up an effective screen in front of DiPietro that forced a rebound by the goaltender on a shot from the point.
Stempniak found the puck to his right and backhanded it home for his first goal in 11 games, since potting one against Philadelphia on Nov. 29.
An assist also gave centre Matt Stajan his 30th point (nine goals) of the season in 34 games, just three less than he had all last year in 82 contests.
Bad week for Kaberle
New York went ahead on a mistake by Tomas Kaberle, who has been especially giving in Christmas week.
After a shot from the point and a rebound, Kaberle tried to clear the puck up the centre of the ice but fanned on it. The rubber rolled to rookie Josh Bailey, who fired it towards the goal where Guerin tipped it by a helpless Toskala.
Kaberle had given the puck up twice, leading to goals, on Tuesday against the Stars.
The margin might have been 3-1 after two periods but for the solid play in his own zone by rookie Jonas Frogren, who blocked three consecutive shots at one point while the Islanders buzzed around.
Islanders came in with a 7-3-1 record when leading after two periods.
New York's Andy Hilbert left the game in the second period after blocking a shot with his foot. The team announced later he had suffered a fracture.