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Canadian Press
2/13/2007 10:35:43 PM

TORONTO (CP) - The New York Islanders took a gigantic step forward Tuesday night.

A 3-2 shootout win over the Maple Leafs, made possible by Rick DiPietro's outstanding goaltending, moved them even with Toronto in ninth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference and to within two points of eighth-place Montreal.

Beating a just-as-desperate Toronto team right in Air Canada Centre, where they hadn't won in 11 previous visits since a March 2002 victory, lent a load of legitimacy to the challenge being mounted by coach Ted Nolan's team for a post-season berth.

There is nothing exciting about the way they play, but Nolan gets the most out of what he's got.

Frans Nielsen and Viktor Kozlov beat Andrew Raycroft in the shootout, while only Mats Sundin could get a puck past DiPietro.

In regulation, Trent Hunter and Miro Satan scored for the Islanders and Pavel Kubina and Bates Battaglia for Toronto.

Both teams have been on a mission to move into the top eight in the East and snag a playoff spot. In their previous 10 games, Toronto had earned points from eight and New York had earned points from nine.

It shaped up as a seesaw battle before the first puck was dropped, and DiPietro made sure that's what transpired.

The Islanders came within a centimetre or two or getting the first goal when Andy Hilbert lifted a backhander that at first appeared to have Raycroft beaten, but Raycroft lunged and made a miraculous save by getting his mitt in front of the puck. It rolled to the goal-line and he reached back with his stick to keep it from going in.

Kubina opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 6:14. Fred Meyer was in the box when Kubina slapped a drive from just inside the blue-line that went through DiPietro's legs. It was Kubina's fifth goal. The six-foot-four Czech has scored all five in the last 14 games.

Raycroft robbed Randy Robitaille late in the opening period, but the Islanders beat him with their first two shots of the second. Hunter got his 15th with a wrist shot into the top short-side corner of the net at 4:49 from the circle to the left of Raycroft, and Satan got his 20th at 5:16 with a backhand wave at a rebound.

Battaglia tied it 2-2 at 9:00 when he emerged from behind the net to DiPietro's right, waited for DiPietro to kneel, and lifted a backhand shot over the goalie's right shoulder for his 10th of the season.

Battaglia got a breakaway in the fifth minute of the third period. With DiPietro on his chest in the crease, Battaglia was unable to lift the puck high enough and shot into DiPietro's right leg pad.

DiPietro then stole a goal from Tomas Kaberle by stretching to snare a labelled shot.

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