UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP)—Joe DiPenta was all over the score sheet in just his second NHL game.
Atlanta’s defenseman had a goal and an assist in the first period Saturday to lead the Thrashers to a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders, who are struggling as the playoffs near.
DiPenta’s biography wasn’t included in Atlanta’s pregame notes, but he expects to get plenty of attention from family and friends back in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“My answering machine will be loaded with calls,” the 24-year-old DiPenta said. “You dream of scoring a goal in the NHL as a kid. It’s exciting, to say the least.”
The Islanders are 0-4-1 in their last five games overall and 0-5-1 in their last six at home.
“Mentally and physically, guys are worn down,” said Islanders forward Dave Scatchard, who brought New York within 3-2 with 59.8 seconds left. “Bottom line is: We’re in the playoffs and it doesn’t take much to get jacked up for that.”
The Islanders clinched the league’s final playoff berth when the Rangers were eliminated by a loss to New Jersey on Friday night.
The Islanders’ loss Saturday means they will finish eighth in the Eastern Conference and play Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs, which begin next week. The Senators have the league’s top record. Boston earned the No. 7 seed in the East and faces New Jersey in the first round.
DiPenta gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead less than 1 1/2 minutes in and set up Ilya Kovalchuk’s 37th goal of the season to make it 2-0 at 14:04. Dany Heatley later added his 39th goal and an assist for the Thrashers.
Alexei Yashin continued his scoring surge for the Islanders by bringing New York within 2-1 with a power-play goal 5:32 into the second period. Yashin tied Scatchard for the team lead with 26 goals.
Scatchard’s 27th brought the Islanders within 3-2. He scored for just the second time in 12 games, while Yashin has 10 goals and five assists in eight games.
Heatley continued his fine sophomore season, raising his point total to 86. Heatley, the All-Star MVP, has goals in eight of 12 games. He and linemate Vyacheslav Kozlov tied the club record for assists when each earned his 47th on DiPenta’s goal.
Kozlov then broke Ray Ferraro’s record when he earned another assist on Heatley’s goal that made it 3-1 at 6:55 of the second period.
Atlanta improved to 18-15-5 under coach Bob Hartley, who took over after Curt Fraser was fired. The Thrashers, in their fourth season, have a team-record 30 wins. They started 0-8-1-1 and were 12-29-2 when Hartley got behind the bench.
“It’s nobody’s fault but our own that our season ends tomorrow,” Heatley said. “We started off poorly, and we’re paying for it.”
Pasi Nurminen was sharp in making 28 saves, including a stop with 25 seconds left on a drive from the left circle. Two Islanders were in front, taking jabs at the rebound, but Nurminen held on to improve to 20-19-5.
Garth Snow made 16 saves for the Islanders.
The Islanders will make their second straight playoff appearance after a seven-year absence. … New York has been outscored 21-8 in its winless streak. … New York C Jason Blake was scratched for an undisclosed reason. He was replaced in the lineup by Justin Mapletoft, who was recalled Saturday from Bridgeport of the AHL. … The Thrashers finished 1-3 against New York this season. … DiPenta, acquired from Philadelphia on March 5, made his NHL debut Wednesday against Buffalo. … Islanders D Adrian Aucoin left the game earlywith a sinus problem.