By: Adam Gretz
PITTSBURGH -- Rick DiPietro probably wasn't planning on making his 2011-12 debut the way he did on Thursday night during the Islanders' 3-2 shootout loss to the Penguins.
Starting the game on the bench as the backup to Evgeni Nabokov, DiPietro was called into action following the overtime period and had to enter the game, nearly three hours after he was last on the ice for pre-game warmups, to face the Penguins shooters in the tie-breaking skills competition.
Anytime a goaltender has to enter the game off the bench it's not really an ideal situation. Being thrown directly into the shootout for your first appearance of the season, and first appearance in an NHL game since last April, has to make it even more difficult. DiPietro stopped two of the three shots he faced, with Evgeni Malkin finding an open spot along the ice under his pad for the only goal of the shootout.
The move wasn't done for any strategic reason, as Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said Nabokov was dealing with some "fatigue."
Later, Nabokov said he was dealing with a "lower body injury" that he started to feel sometime during the first period and that as the game went on "fatigue" started to become an issue and he didn't have as much power.
"Nabby was fatigued and wasn't feeling well so I had to put Rick in," said Capuano. "I love our goalies, all three of them have played well and given us a chance so I have no issues. If one guy couldn't go, I have all the faith in Rick, and Rick was great. Actually he almost had Malkin's shot. But, you know, if you don't score in the shootout you're not going to win."
He wouldn't go into much detail as to what happened to Nabokov, who stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced through regulation and overtime. Throughout his career with San Jose Nabokov had some struggles in the shootout, and when asked if he was uncomfortable with the shootout and whether or not that went into his decision to make the switch Capuano insisted it had nothing to do with that.
"No, no, no," said Capuano. "I'm not going to get into it, he just couldn't go. So Ricky went in. Nabby's not one of those guys that feels uncomfortable. None of our goalies feel uncomfortable in situations like that. They're all great competitors and since the start of the season they've given us a chance to win."
DiPietro didn't have much to say following the game, only saying that it was unfortunate the team couldn't get the win.