Inconsistency has plagued New Jersey. At times, they have not played a full 6-0 minutes. It comes in different forms, such as a line not performing well, not enough offensive pressure, miscommunication on defense. Thankfully for the Devils, they’ve found ways to win or earn at least a point.
Tonight was not the case. The New York Islanders scored three goals in the second period in a 2:20 minute span. New York would add two more in the third to earn the 5-1 victory at home. New Jersey dropped to 9-3-3 while New York has won their last two and improved to 6-7-1 on the year.
“I don’t think it was a 5-1 game, but that’s what the scoreboard said so we’ll have to deal with it,” said DeBoer.
Both teams have struggled to get off to good starts. Tonight the Devils have a good first period. Their forecheck generated chances, the defense made stops and generated transition, while Johan Hedburg frustrated the Islanders shooters. Despite quality chances, Evgeni Nabokov held the line. The Devils caught a break when David Ullstrom was awarded a penalty shot. He beat Hedburg, but his shot hit the crossbar and remained out of the net. New Jersey outshot New York 15-9 through the first 20 minutes, but the score remained tied at zero.
“We came out. We were ready to play. We had a great first period. We had nothing to show for it,” said DeBoer.
The Islanders didn’t get a fiery speech in the intermission like Tuesday night, but they outplayed New Jersey throughout the middle frame. Taking a page from the visitor, the home team’s forecheck trapped the Devils in their own zone, preventing the Devils from getting much offense all period. Hedburg had to be strong, including a split save on Michael Grabner in front.
New York would finally solve the Devils goaltender later in the period. At the 16:46 mark, the Islanders had a 3-on-2 rush. Brad Boyes fired a shot from the right circle on Hedburg. He made the save with the right pad, but the rebound went to the slot, where John Tavares deposited it into the vacant net.
Just 1:23 later, Tavares doubled the lead to 2-0 on the power play. Matt Martin laid a clean hit on Bryce Salvador, who retaliated and earned two minutes in the penalty box. Off a face-off win, Matt Moulson went to the left side of the net and tried to jam it forward. Hedburg’s stick blocked the attempt, but the puck bounced forward in the air. Tavares swatted the puck out of midair and past the Devils goaltender to make it 2-0.
The Isles star forward was in the right spot yet again. He has gotten better at anticipating where the puck will end up.
New Jersey surrendered another powerplay goal with less than a minute left in the period. Henrik Tallinder, playing in his first game after being scratched for seven games, went to the box for a bad penalty. This time Matt Moulson scored, his seventh of the season. The Isles would take a 3-0 lead to the locker room. They outshot the Devils 14-5 in the second. Similar to the Flyers game, the Islanders scored three goals in a short amount of time. It took the Flyers 2:36 in the first period. The Isles did it tonight in 2:20. New Jersey never recovered.
“We were playing well and we had a few minutes of breakdowns. They capitalized on some chances there and that was basically it,” said Adam Henrique, who only recorded one shot on goal and was 38% on face-offs.
New Jersey would net a powerplay goal in the third period. After possessing the puck for over a minute, the Islanders defenders were tired. Patrick Elias fed Marek Zidlicky who snapped it past Nabokov through traffic for his team’s first and only goal of the game.
Ilya Kovalchuk got the secondary assist on Zidlicky’s goal, extending his point streak to six games. The forward now has 10 points (three goals and seven assists) in that span. It was also Kovalchuk’s 800th point of his NHL career.
Despite the Devils attempts to close the gap, Nabokov kept them at bay. He finished with 30 saves.
Tavares would complete the hat trick at 5:15 on the powerplay. Following the end of a two-man advantage, Tavares received the puck in the right circle. With plenty of time and room, he sniped the top shelf right under the crossbar to make it 4-1.
Michael Grabner would be credited with his sixth goal of the season following a crazy play, ending with Zidlicky accidentally knocking the puck into his own net.
“The bottom line is our PK wasn’t good enough,” Salvador said. “That’s the difference of the game. Every night you’re going to go up against great players and the Islanders have four strong lines. The PK just wasn’t sharp and we didn’t keep the momentum going our way.”
Peter DeBoer added, “…Their best players were their best players tonight – Tavares and their goaltender (Evgeni Nabokov) – and that was the difference.”
New Jersey has now lost two of their last three games.
Face-offs have plagued the Devils through 15 games this season. They rank towards the bottom of the league in wins and percent. Against the Islanders, one of the better teams on draws, New Jersey struggled to retain possession. They only won 20 of 54.
The Devils will complete their third game in four days on Monday against a depleted Ottawa Senators at 1pm on Presidents Day.
“We believe in ourselves in this room,” said the teams leading goal scorer David Clarkson. “Every night we show up we believe we’re going to win and we thought that tonight coming in. We’ll have to get ready for next game and hopefully the outcome is a little better.”
NOTES: This was only the Devils third game this season they have not earned at least a point…Tonight’s Islanders victory was only their second on home ice…New Jersey has surrendered eight powerplay goals in the last five games…
Filed Under: NHL
About the Author: Sports Reporter by day, puck stopper between the pipes at night. I was the Locker Room Reporter for the Islanders for WRHU-FM. Currently, I cover the New Jersey Devils on HockeyIndependent.com and Metro Area Hockey on BrooklynFans.com Follow me on Twitter @John_A_Iadevaia