The Devils traveled to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the first time during the regular season to take on the New York Islanders in the back half of a home-and-home with the Isles.
The Islanders debuted a new-look third jersey tonight, wearing a Brooklyn Nets-inspired black and white uniform. Some other notes from the game include Jiri Tlusty (Devils – upper body injury) and John Tavares (Islanders – illness) sitting and Stephen Gionta playing in his 200th career NHL game.
The Isles got on the board early, when Brock Nelson scored at 7:23 of the first. Marek Zidlicky fired a shot from the point, which Cory Schneider (making his ninth straight start) made the initial save on, the rebound came out to Anders Lee, who fired a shot point blank that Cory also got and then another rebound came out to Nelson who put it home. New York led 1-0.
Though there were no penalties called on either team in the first period, the Islanders (usually a very disciplined team – they took no penalties in their last game against Buffalo) were called for six penalties the rest of the game, giving the Devils plenty of chances on the power play for the night. The problem was that the Islanders had not given up a power play goal in nine games. That trend would continue through the second period where the Isles doubled up the Devils in penalties, taking four to New Jersey’s two.
Two of those penalties led to a four-on-four situation. Jacob Josefson had taken a hooking call at 6:27 of the second to put the Isles up a man. Then, at 6:45, things were evened up when New York’s Lee was also nabbed for hooking. This four-on-four led to a great Schneider save when he robbed the Islanders on a 2-on-1 breakaway.
Another four-on-four occurred when coincidental roughing calls were made against the Devils’ Jordin Tootoo and the Islanders’ Matt Martin. Tootoo had been giving the Islander tough guy’s linemate, Casey Cizikas some trouble and Martin stepped in to defend his teammate. The two were ready to scrap when Tootoo’s helmet came off and the linesmen stepped in, resulting in the shorter roughing minors.
The Islanders stayed up a goal until Brian Strait was called for slashing Josefson at 2:28 of the third. The Devils had their fifth chance on the power play and this time would finally connect. Travis Zajac scored his fifth goal of the season (assists to Kyle Palmieri and Eric Gelinas) at 4:03 to end the Islanders’ penalty killing streak and tie the game at one.
But the Devils were unable to solve Jaroslav Halak and let the Islanders hang around, something you cannot do with a team as good as the Isles. At 17:48 of the third, Cizikas broke the tie with a tip-in from a shot from Martin to put New York ahead for good.
Although that was the end of the scoring, the Devils were given a good chance to tie it up late. After pulling Schneider (who ended with 32 saves on the night) to go up a six-on-five, the Devils pressed. Then, with twenty seconds left in the game, the Islanders got caught with a bad line change and received a bench minor for too many men on the ice to put the Devils up six-on-four. Unfortunately for New Jersey fans, the Islanders cleared the puck towards the empty net and, though they hit the outside of the cage, were able to pin the puck deep in the Devils zone until time ran out. The Isles snapped a three game losing streak for them and got revenge on the Devils for the shootout loss on Saturday.
The Islanders played a physical game, out hitting the Devils 63 to 26 and New Jersey was able to hang in with them, but ultimately, the Isles were able to beat Cory late and the Devils just could not muster the equalizer. They were having trouble solving Halak and the Devils’ first regular season game in Barclays Center would go down in the loss column for them.
The team tries to get back on a winning track when they welcome the defending Stanley Cup champions to the Prudential Center on Friday when the Chicago Blackhawks come to town. The Devils have a steep hill to climb, but with the steady play of Cory Schneider and if they can get some offense going besides Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri, they might stand more than a chance.