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DiPietro, Blake shine as Islanders complete perfect homestand

Nov 26, 2006 - 3:06 AM UNIONDALE, New York (Ticker) -- A shutout would have been ideal, but Rick DiPietro undoubtedly is more than willing to settle for a perfect homestand.

DiPietro turned aside 33 shots and Jason Blake scored twice as the New York Islanders won for the fourth time in five games with a 4-1 triumph over the reeling Washington Capitals.

Richard Park and Trent Hunter also tallied for New York, which outscored its opponents, 11-4, in completing a flawless three-game homestand.

DiPietro literally was perfect through the first two periods of all three contests before losing a shutout in the third session of each. The only person to beat him Saturday was superstar Alex Ovechkin, who netted a power-play goal with 17:12 to go.

"Guys are blocking shots for me and I'm getting a good look at shots from the point," DiPietro said. "The big thing on this homestand is we're not taking five- and 10-minute stretches off."

Despite DiPietro's improved play, the matter the Islanders are most concerned with is the status of center Alexei Yashin, who suffered a bruised right knee after a check from Washington's Matt Bradley with seven minutes left and did not return. Yashin will undergo an MRI on Monday.

"Any time a player leaves, you're concerned," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "We'll see how it reacts over the next few days."

The injury did not spoil what was an enjoyable night for the Islanders, who inducted Bob Bourne - a member of the team's four Stanley Cup championship teams - into their Hall of Fame before the game.

As the final seconds counted down, the 13,214 fans chanted, "first place," recognizing the franchise's perch in the Atlantic Division standings. The Islanders entered the game next-to-last in average home attendance.

"We wanted to win our fans back," Nolan said. "You do that by working hard."

Blake opened the scoring with a man-advantage goal with five minutes left in the first period. Defenseman Sean Hill faked a slap shot from the right faceoff circle and wristed a pass to the side of the crease to Blake, who poked the puck past Olaf Kolzig.

Blake added his team-leading 14th goal of the season 78 seconds into the second period, skating around blue-liner John Erskine and putting a backhander past Kolzig.

"I'm playing on a line with Yashin, so he's getting me the puck," Blake said. "I'm trying not to get too high or too low."

Park made it 3-0 with 1:20 left in the middle session, converting a rebound of a slap shot by defenseman Alexei Zhitnik. Hunter added a shorthanded empty-netter with 47 seconds left to cap the scoring.

Kolzig turned aside 26 shots for Washington, which has lost a season-high six games in a row, including a lopsided 7-1 defeat against Toronto on Friday.

"We're getting some bad bounces," Kolzig said. "They will even out over time."

The Capitals played without left wing Donald Brashear, who sat out the second game of a three-game suspension. But the team could do little offensively against DiPietro, except scoring a power-play goal for the seventh straight game.

"I thought we did some good things tonight," Washington defenseman Brian Pothier. "We gave them too many chances."

The Islanders were whistled for three minors in a 68-second span late in the first period, but they responded by killing off a two-man advantage that lasted 1 minute, 45 seconds. The Islanders also killed off a 5-on-3 for 50 seconds in the first period of Friday's win over Pittsburgh.

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