It was the beginning of the second half of the season for the Devils (game number 42) and they were looking to get things on track. It was also the second meeting between them and the New York Islanders in five days. The Devils held on to defeat the Isles in that game last week at Nassau Coliseum, unfortunately, while they did get a point, they did not win at Prudential Center. The Devils fell in overtime 4-3 to an Anders Lee goal.
Some injury updates for the Devils saw Jack Hughes (upper body) and Jesper Bratt (lower body) missing tonight’s game. Connor Carrick was the healthy scratch as the lineup largely stayed the same for the Devils as the last game.
Mackenzie Blackwood was a game time decision as he had missed most of yesterday’s practice with flu-like symptoms. He was all right to go following warmups and started his seventh straight game tonight. He ended with 37 saves on 41 Islander shots for a .902 save percentage. As the second period was expiring, Blackwood took a puck to the mask that impacted some of his teeth. He ended up bloodied and having some teeth removed in the second intermission (and following the game), but did not miss a minute of play. Showing his toughness, he finished up the second and came right out to play the third too.
Facing him was Thomas Greiss – the second straight game the Devils met a German-born goaltender following Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer – who made 32 saves on 35 Devils shots for a .914 save percentage. Greiss had not won for the Isles since December 12.
The Devils were wearing their throwback red, green and white uniforms (that they have yet to win in) as they welcomed the Islanders to the Rock for the first time this season.
The Isles got on the board first when Casey Cizikas scored 3:38 into the game. Leo Komarov centered to Matt Martin in the slot who shot. Blackwood made the initial save but the rebound came out to Cizikas and he scored. That gave New York the early 1-0 lead.
But, similar to the last time these two teams faced each other, PK Subban had the equalizer. He scored at 8:37 when Miles Wood grabbed the puck off the boards and sped up the left-wing boards, he curled around the net and dished to Subban coming out from behind. Subban stepped up and blasted one with the puck being tipped by Greiss and into the Isles’ net. That tied the game up at one apiece. Ben Street had the other assist in what was his first point as a New Jersey Devil.
Before the first period was up, however, the Islanders would take over the lead again. It came off when Jordan Eberle scored unassisted at 10:17. It came when Damon Severson, in trying to clear the puck out of the New Jersey zone, cleared through the slot right to Eberle’s stick. Eberle fired and beat Blackwood to give New York back the lead, 2-1.
But much as he was in the meeting last week between the teams, Nico Hischier would step up as hero. Nico had some support in his bid to get to the All-Star Game in the NHL’s Last Men In fan voting via the dasher boards. Geico, the insurance company, changed their ads in the corner to “Nico” with an arrow pointing towards the ad for the fan voting.
But Nico made a good case himself when, at the 18:24 mark of the second period, he made a nice individual effort, protecting the puck and staying strong, cutting around the Isles’ zone and towards Greiss’ cage. With an Islander on his back, he fired a backhanded shot by Greiss and scored to make it 2-2. Nico had the game-winning goal last week and it seemed that he was poised for a big night once again. Kyle Palmieri and Wayne Simmonds had the assists on the goal.
That seemed even more likely in the third period, when the very first penalty of the game was called – against Greiss for hooking Nikita Gusev as he sped behind the Islanders’ net. It would go down as the only penalty of the game and the Devils capitalized when, at 11:55, Palmieri scored. Nico was behind the net and passed to Palmieri, who shot from a steep angle. He shot upstairs on Greiss and the puck squeaked by his shoulder to give the Devils their first lead of the night: 3-2. Severson had the other assist on the goal.
The Devils were 1-for-1 on the power play with three shots on goal. The Islanders did not have a power play, the first time the Devils franchise had not taken a penalty against the Isles since 1978 when they were, of course, the Colorado Rockies. That information came via the postgame show and MSG’s Erika Wachter.
However, the Devils would only enjoy the lead for less than three minutes. At 14:14 of the third, Tom Kuhnakckl scored to tie things up again. Once again, it came on a Devils’ turnover in their own zone. Travis Zajac was trying to pass to Blake Coleman up the boards to try to get the puck out of the zone. Michael Dal Colle knocked the pass down and he gave it to Kuhnhackl at the point. Kuhnhackl shot and the puck redirected by Blackwood off of Severson’s leg.
We were tied again, this time at three when the final horn sounded on regulation. OT was in our future and it was a good one.
The Islanders had won 11 of the last 16 games between these teams and tonight made 12 in 17.
The Devils controlled most of the play in the OT period and Jesper Boqvist and Sami Vatanen both had chances that would have put the game away. Late in the OT, the Devils missed on a 3-on-1 and then the Isles’ Anthony Beauvillier missed the net on a breakaway attempt right after. It was back-and-forth hockey at its best.
The Islanders got the W with less than a minute to go when Anders Lee scored off of a 3-on-1. The Devils were caught in a change and the Isles capitalized. Devon Toews and Mat Barzal had the assists and the Islanders took the game, 4-3.
The Devils had a good game in the faceoff circle, winning 54-percent of the game’s draws. They were, however, outhit by the Isles, 21-18 and had more giveaways at 15 to New York’s seven. New Jersey did have more blocked shots at 17 to 10.
Individually, Andy Greene led the team in ice time with 23:56. Vatanen’s 30-plus minutes he logged against Colorado the other game made him the first Devil to play that many minutes in a game since Brian Rafalski did so back in 2007 according to MSG play-by-play man Steve Cangialosi. Coleman led the forwards with 20:09 of time on ice. Palmieri, Gusev, Hischier and Severson and Vatanen were the only unit that got power play time as they were on the ice for 19 seconds, the time it took for Palmieri to score his goal.
Hischier and Palmieri led in points with two each (both had a goal and an assist) while Coleman and Hischier led in shots on goal with five each. Hits were led by Coleman with four, blocks by Greene, Will Butcher, Vatanen and Subban with two each and takeaways by Coleman with two.
Next up, the Devils complete their tour of the New York teams by traveling to Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers. That game is on Thursday and we will, of course, have a recap for you right here.