The Devils dropped a tough one, losing 3-2 to the Islanders at Prudential Center after leading for a good portion of the game. Two Kieffer Bellows goals sunk them late.
The Devils have now lost 8-of-9 and the Islanders have won eight straight.
The Isles did this without their captain, Anders Lee, who was injured following a collision with Pavel Zacha in Thursday’s game versus New Jersey. He is out “indefinitely with a lower body injury.”
The Devils had Will Butcher scratched again due to COVID protocol. Aaron Dell and Nikita Gusev were the healthy scratches.
As for this game, the Devils honored 100 frontline healthcare workers who were in attendance by wearing last names of a few of them on their jerseys during warmups. It is a touching tribute and I definitely tip my hat to those helping in the fight against the COVID pandemic.
One of the big stories from this game was the penalty kill for both teams. The Devils held the Isles 0-for-4 with nine shots and the Islanders kept the Devils 0-for-3 with six shots.
They say that a goaltender has to be your best penalty killer. Doing the job for the Devils was Mackenzie Blackwood, who stopped 26-of-29 for an .897 save percentage. He stopped 17-of-20 at even strength.
In net for the Islanders was Semyon Varlamov who stopped 26-of-28 for a .929 save percentage, turned aside two Devils shorthanded chances and was 18-for-20 at even strength.
It was Zacha who got the Devils on the board first, breaking the seal just 6:37 into the game. He took the puck from Kyle Palmieri and skated up the middle of the ice, shooting from the slot to score and make it 1-0 Devils. Ryan Murray had the secondary assist.
The Islanders would respond at the end of the period. Just after the Devils had killed off a New York power play, at 17:59, Oliver Wahlstrom scored to tie it. He picked up the puck in the Isles’ end and skated up ice. He cut to the middle and scored. The goal came unassisted.
And that was it going into the first intermission: tied at one.
At the beginning of the second, things went old school when only one referee and two linesmen came onto the ice. Referee Justin St. Pierre left the game due to an upper body injury.
In the second, Janne Kuokkanen gave the Devils back the lead on a beautiful goal. At 1:04 of the new frame, Yegor Sharangovich took a slick pass from Travis Zajac. He shot from the near faceoff circle, hit the crossbar and the left post. However, Kuokkanen was right there to beat Josh Bailey to the puck, diving to put it behind Varlamov. That great effort made it 2-1 Devils.
And that was where it remained until the third, when Kieffer Bellows took over.
Bellows scored 1:59 into the third when Joran Eberle passed up to Mat Barzal. Barzal took a pass from Bellows, skated into the Devils’ zone and drew two Devils defenders to him. This allowed him to pass back to Bellows, who finished.
The 2-on-2 saw two Devils’ players go to Barzal, but there is no fault there. You have to respect the threat of Barzal while hoping he cannot make the pass to Bellows.
That tied the game at two apiece.
Bellows then struck again at the 5:10 mark when he drove to the Devils’ net, putting the puck behind Blackwood to give the Isles their first lead of the night. Eberle had the lone assist.
That lead would be our final. The Devils pulled Blackwood with about 1:50 to go in regulation, but time simply ran out on their good effort. The Islanders had won their eighth straight and their second straight over the Devils.
The Isles edged the Devils in shots, 29-28. Sharangovich led in that category with five. Hits were led by Andreas Johnsson with four while the Devils were outhit as a team, 26-20. Blocked shots were led by the Islanders 11-10. Leading the Devils in that category were Sharangovich, Travis Zajac, Michael McLeod, Mikhail Maltsev, Kuokkanen, Jack Hughes, Ty Smith, Sami Vatanen, Dmitry Kulikov and PK Subban who all had one. The Devils had more giveaways at 19 to the Islanders’ 14. Zacha led in takeaways for the Devils with two.
Zajac led in faceoff winning percentage for the centers with a 71-percent mark. Kulikov led in ice time for the team with 22:10 while Sharangovich led the forwards with 19:29. Jack Hughes led in power play time with 4:06.
That leads us to tomorrow. Another date with the Islanders, again at Prudential Center. The game is at 5 PM, so don’t forget to spring ahead tonight. We will see you after the game!
Until then, stay safe everyone!