The Devils fell tonight in a shootout to the New York Islanders at Prudential Center, 2-1 as they were swept in the season series between the teams. But the real story tonight was Cory Schneider. Activated off of injured reserve the other night, he made his first start since December 14 versus the Vegas Golden Knights and he was very good. You could see the confidence coming back to Cory with each save he made and he held the Isles scoreless through the second and third periods as well as overtime and three rounds of the shootout. Cory played well enough to be named the game’s second star by the media and to earn back the fan’s confidence enough to get a “Cory!” chant late in the game.
New Jersey was coming into the game off of the heels of the trade that sent Brian Boyle to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. Boyle, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was sent to the Preds in exchange for a second round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
But while one player was subtracted from the Devils’ roster, another was returning. Ben Lovejoy, a key part of the Devils’ penalty kill, came off of IR tonight playing on the third pairing with Mirco Mueller. In addition, Eric Gryba slotted in on defense in his first NHL appearance since October 27 against Florida. With those two d-men in, Steven Santini and Egor Yakovlev were healthy scratches. In addition to all of that, Travis Zajac was hit in the ear with a puck middle of the first period but he returned early in the second. Miles Wood also left injured midway through the second and seemed to be favoring his right shoulder after he fell awkwardly on it as he was hit off balance.
The netminder matchup featured Cory making his return against an Islander team that is first in the NHL in team goals against and save percentage. In addition, the New York starter, Thomas Greiss, had a shut out streak of over an hour coming into tonight according to the MSG broadcast crew. Cory ended up making 27 saves on 28 Islander shots for a .964 save percentage. Greiss stopped 30 of 31 for a .968 save percentage. But again, stats do not do enough justice to how Schneider played tonight. He was, again, gaining confidence as the game went on and came up big a few times, including a point blank shot early in the game against Mat Barzal.
Special teams saw the Devils go 0-for-3 on the power play with five total shots. The Devils also had a pair of shorthanded shots. The Islanders were 0-for-4 on the PP with six power play shots.
Kevin Rooney put the Devils on the board early with the 1-0 lead at the 5:32 mark of the first period. He used a burst of speed to get around the Isles’ d-man and shot under the crossbar, glove side, beating Greiss. That ended Greiss’ shut out streak and put the Devils in front. Kurtis Gabriel and Jesper Bratt had the assists on the goal.
But while the Devils scored early, the Islanders found the net late in the first period. At 13:42, Barzal was coming out of the penalty box after serving a roughing minor and took a pass from Ryan Pulock for a clear-cut breakaway. He scored on a play that saw Blake Coleman, who was serving a coincidental roughing minor, go straight to the bench for a change instead of joining the play, allowing Barzal to walk right in. It was a tough play and Schneider really had no chance on the goal. The game was now tied up at one. Brock Nelson had the other assist on the goal.
According to Steve Cangialosi, the Islanders have not trailed going into an intermission since January 8 and that streak would continue tonight.
After a scoreless second and third period, we were off to overtime. Jesper Bratt had the best chance to end it for either team when hit clanged one off of both posts in the middle part of the OT. His shot hit the far post and then nailed the near post without ever going over the line or into the net. A rough break for the Devils and one that kept the game 1-1. When OT expired without a goal, we were headed to a shootout.
In the first round, Kyle Palmieri missed and the Islanders’ Jordan Eberle hit the crossbar on his attempt. Nico Hischier missed in the second round for the Devils and Barzal whiffed on his chance for New York. In the third round, Drew Stafford’s shot was saved by Greiss and Nelson’s was saved by Cory. In the sudden death fourth round, Bratt was stopped by Greiss and Josh Bailey became the hero, scoring to give the Isles the victory.
The Devils out shot the Islanders 31 to 28 and won a whopping 64-percent of the game’s faceoffs. The Devils also threw 31 hits to the Isles’ 23 and blocked 13 shots to New York’s ten. The Devils doubled up on giveaways at 14 to the Islanders’ seven.
Individually, Marcus Johansson led all Devils skaters in ice time with 24:32 (5:04 on the power play) just beating out Damon Severson, who led the defensemen with 24:03 (4:10 on the power play and 2:49 shorthanded). Stafford and Bratt led in shots on goal with four each, Gabriel led in hits with eight, Mueller led in blocks with three and Zajac and Johansson led in takeaways with three each.
Next up, the Devils faceoff with the Minnesota Wild on Saturday in a 1 PM puck drop at Prudential Center. We will have coverage here for you then as the Devils try to throw a monkey wrench into Minnesota’s playoff hopes. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment below if you would like. It is always appreciated.