The Devils’ continued to run the gauntlet at home as the New York Islanders – a Metropolitan Division powerhouse who are playoff seasoned veterans – came into Prudential Center. But the Devils have been playing some good hockey of late and tonight, came away with the 4-0 win over the Isles on their way to a third consecutive victory and recording a point in their last four games.
They were coming off of a 7-3 drubbing of the high-flying Florida Panthers on Tuesday. In that game, Alexander Holtz, recently recalled from AHL Utica, recorded an assist – his first NHL point – a fact which I neglected to mention in Tuesday’s post. Congratulations to him on the first of, what we all hope, is many.
Also of note is that Ty Smith’s three points on Tuesday made him the youngest Devils defenseman since Scott Niedermayer to record a multi-point game (Niedermayer did so in 1994).
The Devils also got reinforced on the blue line as Dougie Hamilton returned tonight. With that, defenseman Colton White slotted out of the lineup, joining forwards Yegor Sharangovich and Mason Geertsen as scratches.
They will be without Miles Wood indefinitely, however, as he did have right hip surgery, as we detailed in Tuesday’s post.
In goal, the Devils went right back to their starter in the Florida game. Mackenzie Blackwood made consecutive starts for the first time this season after recording his first win of the season against the Panthers. Tonight, he made a whopping 42 saves as he shutout the Islanders. This was his seventh career NHL shutout and his first against the Isles. He stopped New York’s lone shorthanded shot and all four of their power play shots. The Isles were 0-for-3 on the power play. He made 37 saves at even strength.
The Islanders countered with Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin played a good game, making 30 saves on 34 total Devils shots for an .882 save percentage. He stopped one of the Devils’ two shorthanded shots and four of their five power play shots as the Devils went 1-for-2 on the man advantage. He made 25 saves on 27 even strength shots.
The Islanders are currently on their never ending 13-game road trip – they will open UBS Arena on November 20 against the Calgary Flames. Current Islanders Zach Parise, Andy Greene and Lou Lamoriello have all done this before. In 2007-08, the Devils started the season on a nine-game road trip as they were getting set to open Prudential Center while all three were members of the New Jersey organization.
The Isles had not played since Sunday in Minnesota, however, which ended up being a tough come-from-behind win for the Wild.
It was Military Appreciation Night at The Rock on this Veterans Day. Fitting, then that Kyle Palmieri should be making his return to the venue in front of Devils fans. Palmieri had worked so much with veterans groups in his time with the Devils. He may have gotten a video tribute on the big board – although MSG did not show it as they had promised in the pregame.
And while we are on the subject of former Devils playing with the Islanders. Andy Greene played in NHL game number 999 tonight – just one shy of 1,000 – against his old club.
The Devils got on the board in the first period shorthanded as their special teams continue to show improvement.
The goal came at the 12:12 mark of the first. Jesper Bratt had gone off for holding the stick of Brock Nelson at 11:23. While killing that off, the Devils had the puck pinned in the New York zone. PK Subban got a shot off of a loose puck. The rebound came out to Nico Hischier on the doorstep. Sorokin came way out of his net to challenge Hischier and Nico’s rebound came to Janne Kuokkanen at the other side of the net. Kuokkanen put it into a wide-open cage as he scored his first NHL shorthanded goal. That made it 1-0 Devils.
Blackwood was sharp all night. At a point late in the second period, he stopped a Ryan Pulock shot off of an Islander 3-on-2 odd man rush that was a huge save for him to that point in the game.
From here, the Devils began using their speed through the neutral zone, long stretch passes to spring guys and the like, to break through on the Isles.
Late in the second, with the Isles’ Palmieri and the Devils’ Damon Severson each going off with coincidental roughing minors, the teams were at 4-on-4. Dawson Mercer came off of the bench on a change and immediately took a nice pass from Subban. Mercer got the shot off, hitting the post, but it was a sign of how New Jersey was trying to get through on the Isles.
They would connect at the 19:10 mark of the second on the power play.
Tomas Tatar had gone off for hooking Noah Dobson at 16:40. The Devils would end up at 4-on-4 for two seconds and then a power play when Oliver Wahlstrom was called for a trip against Mercer at 18:38.
Once the Devils got on the man advantage, they were able to settle down and set up in the Islanders’ zone. Pavel Zacha moved the puck around the perimeter to Hamilton up top. Hamilton took a blast of a shot that was headed wide of the net but hit Tatar’s shinpad and deflected in past Sorokin to make it 2-0 Devils. They had now notched a shorthanded goal and a power play goal in the first two periods of the game. This goal was also Tatar’s first as a Devil.
The Devils continued to use their speed on the Islanders in the third.
Tatar was stopped on a breakaway early in the new frame. He broke in behind the Isles’ defense off of a stretch pass from Michael McLeod. Alone in on Sorokin, he went backhand, forehand and back to his backhand, but was stopped by the Islander goaltender as he stretched across the crease and stopped Tatar with his left pad. McLeod’s pass was a nice thread-the-needle job to Tatar.
The Devils would finally convert on one of these chances at the 5:46 mark of the third when Mercer scored. Bratt chipped the puck up to Andreas Johnsson, who had Mercer with him just inside the Islanders blue line. Mercer broke in behind the Islander defender and Johnsson got him the puck. Mercer was in all alone on Sorokin. His shot trickled behind Sorokin and in over the goal line to make it 3-0 Devils.
Hamilton put a capper on the game at 16:33 of the third when Ryan Graves took a shot that banked off of the boards behind the Isles net and came right to Hamilton the top of the near faceoff circle. Hamilton wound up and blasted a shot that blew by Sorokin and beat him five-hole.
Jimmy Vesey had the secondary assist on the goal. Graves’ shot was perfectly placed. He did not just shoot it into Sorokin’s pads to get a rebound in front. He saw Hamilton there and that was a real heads up play by him.
And that was our final: 4-0 Devils.
The Devils were outshot 42 to 34. The Devils won 47-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Hischier winning at 68-percent personally to lead the Devils there.
The Devils accumulated eight penalty minutes while the Isles had six. The Devils were outhit 24 to 16 but did have more blocked shots at 23 to the Islanders’ ten. Both teams turned over the puck a lot (indicative of how it was played) with the Devils finishing with 19 giveaways and the Isles with 15.
Graves led the Devils in ice time with 23:05 logged (including 14 seconds on the power play and 3:49 on the penalty kill). Vesey led the forwards with 17:26 of total ice time (including 2:59 on the PK).
Hamilton, with a goal and an assist, led the Devils with two points. Shots were led by Tatar with seven – by far his most visible game as a Devil. Hamilton finished second with five shots on goal. Hits were led by Jesper Boqvist with four. Blocks were led by Hamilton with five. Giveaways were led by Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaler as the two Swiss players had three each. Takeaways were led by Vesey, Kuokkanen and Boqvist with two each.
Next up, the Devils start a big weekend. On Saturday, they will host the Boston Bruins at 1 PM. I will be attending this game in person but will try to file a post as quickly as I can.
Sunday is the second half of a back-to-back as the Devils head to Manhattan to take on the Rangers.
We will have all of that for you right here but in the meantime, have a great end of the week everyone!