The star goaltender suffered a head injury late in the opening period of the Islanders’ 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. DiPietro was taken to a hospital and released, and coach Ted Nolan said the team would have no further information until the medical staff reviewed test results.
“He was a little bit groggy,” Nolan said. “That was quite a hit that he took, but he seems to be OK right now, but we’ll give it 24 hours. We’ll get him re-evaluated by our doctors and go from there.”
DiPietro left with 4:19 remaining in the opening period after he collided with Canadiens forward Steve Begin. DiPietro was chasing down a loose puck at the Islanders blue line to prevent a breakaway when Begin’s leg hit the goalie in the head.
The Islanders already lost forward Chris Simon for the rest of the season— including the playoffs—when he was assessed a league-record suspension of a minimum of 25 games Sunday for swinging his stick and striking Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg in the face in Thursday’s 2-1 loss.
“He’s a big piece of the puzzle and we already lost Chris, who brought us a lot of physical play,” Marc-Andre Bergeron said. “Now that we’ve lost him, hopefully we’re not going to lose Rick for a number of games.”
Latendresse and Michael Ryder scored second-period goals to draw the Canadiens even at 2. Latendresse got his second of the game—the 19-year-old rookie’s 15th of the season—midway through the third to tie it at 3 before Higgins beat backup Mike Dunham from the edge of the crease at 11:26.
“We know that we have some character players here and we know if everybody works together we have some good chances, and that’s what happened tonight,” Latendresse said.
David Aebischer finished with 24 saves for Montreal, which won its second in a row as it returned from a five-game road trip.
Alexei Yashin scored his first goal in nearly two months for New York in the first period, and Ryan Smyth beat Aebischer on a penalty shot early in the second to put the Islanders up 2-0. Smyth assisted on Bergeron’s 12th goal 15:05 into the middle period as New York regained the lead 3-2.
The Islanders, who entered seventh in the Eastern Conference with 78 points, lost for the third time in four games (1-2-1). It was the first game they lost in regulation when leading entering third period (25-1-4).
“Anytime you get a couple of goals like that, you’ve got to keep pressing and try to get the third one and make that spread even more,” Smyth said. “We just sat back and let them get into the game.”
Latendresse scored his second of the game 8:39 into the third to tie it at 3, though he had to wait through a video review after play had continued for 19 seconds after his shot beat Dunham and slipped under the crossbar.
“I was pretty sure because when it hits the post, it makes a harder sound, so I was pretty sure it was in,” Latendresse said.
The sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 erupted into cheers when a replay on the video scoreboard clearly showed the puck strike the upper bar in the back of the net while referee Eric Furlatt waited on the phone in front of the penalty boxes with referee Greg Kimmerly and linesman Mark Shewchyk.
The officials looked up to see another conclusive replay shown to the crowd’s delight while they waited for the official verdict from the other end of the line, which finally came a minute after the initial replay was shown.
Kostitsyn, who assisted on Latendresse’s tying goal, set up Higgins’ go-ahead goal at 11:26 with a centering pass from behind the net.
“I was just trying to give him a good angle and he waited for me to slide over and get a better passing lane for him,” Higgins said. “He just flipped it out front and no one was covering me and I was able to beat him on the far side before he could get over.”
Kostitsyn added his third assist on Plekanec’s goal with 1:26 remaining.
Dunham made 27 saves as Montreal held a 40-27 margin in shots. DiPietro stopped each of the eight shots he faced. … Canadiens RW Alex Kovalev missed the game because of vertigo.