Devils Lose as Isles Notch First Win at UBS Arena

This has been a rough patch for the Devils, no doubt about that.

They fell 4-2 tonight to the New York Islanders at the new UBS Arena. The Islanders had not gotten a W at their new home in their first seven games. Tonight’s win was their first home win of the season.

To top that off, two of New York’s goals tonight were scored by former Devils captains.

We will get to that in a moment. Let’s begin with roster issues for the Devils.

Just as the Devils MSG Network pregame show was going on the air, breaking news hit. The Devils announced that forward Nico Hischier and defenseman Ryan Graves were placed in NHL COVID Protocol. Erika Wachter announced it on the pregame show.

So with the Devils without their leader in ice time for forwards in Nico and a defenseman who eats valuable minutes and plays on the penalty kill in Graves, this was going to be a struggle for the Devils to adjust to.

Nate Bastian was the Devils’ lone healthy scratch as Jesper Boqvist and Mason Geertsen both slotted back in up front and Christian Jaros was in on the blue line.

In addition, with Jonathan Bernier going on Injured Reserve with a lower body injury yesterday, the Devils had to call up Akira Schmid from AHL Utica to fill in as the team’s backup.

But tonight, he was the Devils’ starter, making his first NHL start.

Schmid, who became the first Swiss-born goaltender in the NHL since Gilles Senn (who was drafted by, and played for, the Devils) made 25 saves on 29 total Islander shots for an .862 save percentage on the night. He let in the Isles’ only shorthanded shot and their only power play shot. He made 25 stops on 27 shots at even strength.

Going for the Islanders was Ilya Sorokin who has recorded all of New York’s wins this season. He turned aside 30 of the 32 total Devils shots thrown his way for a .936 save percentage. He was also equal to the Devils’ lone shorthanded shot and all four of their power play shots. He made 25 saves on 27 shots at 5-versus-5.

The Devils finished the night 0-for-3 on the power play while the Isles were 1-for-2.

The Devils had beaten the Islanders in the two team’s first meeting in Newark back in November – a 4-0 Devils shutout win. They were looking for consecutive wins against the Isles for the first time since 2018. New York was also 0-7 at home – their longest losing streak to start a season at home in their franchise history.

The fireworks started slowly but got going later on in the first period. It actually started 6:30 into the game when Geertsen hit the Isles’ Noah Dobson up high.

Zdeno Chara stepped in to fight with Geertsen when Dobson was slow to get up immediately. The two fought to a draw with both receiving five for fighting in the end. Geertsen also got an illegal check to the head minor and Chara got an instigator minor plus a ten-minute misconduct.

With Dobson not on the bench right away due to injury and Chara sitting for the next ten-minutes, the Isles would be down two defensemen for at least ten-minutes. Luckily for them, Dobson returned fairly quickly.

Schmid got his first real test early in the first when Kyle Palmieri sprung Brock Nelson with a with a nice pass. Nelson split the Devils’ defense and was in alone on the Devils rookie. Nelson’s initial shot went wide and he tried to put the bank off of the end boards past Schmid, who made the save on that one.

After that, things in the game began to open up a little.

It began at the 17:01 mark when the Islanders’ Scott Mayfield whiffed on a shot in the Devils’ end and Jonas Siegenthaler grabbed the flub. Siegenthaler passed ahead to Jesper Bratt, who was quickly in behind the Isles’ D on a partial breakaway. Bratt made a feign to open up Sorokin shot five-hole.

He scored to notch the Devils’ first goal in UBS Arena. It also extended Bratt’s point streak to five games.

The Islanders would respond very quickly though.

It began at 17:38 gone by in the first. Tomas Tatar cross checked Mat Barzal to put the Islanders on the man advantage.

It took New York about six seconds to convert. The Islanders won the offensive zone faceoff with Oliver Wahlstrom getting the puck back to Barzal at the point. Barzal made a no-look, drop pass to Dobson, who was switching with him at the point. Dobson fired a blast that beat Schmid to tie the game at one.

But that was not the score that would take us into the first intermission.

Less than a minute after the Dobson goal, the flurry of scoring continued. With 18:25 gone by in the first, Jack Hughes scored to put the Devils back on top 2-1.

The Islanders turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Pavel Zacha played give and go with Hughes. Hughes got the puck back and raced up the left side boards. He cut in towards the Isles net and got off a half-slap shot to beat Sorokin glove side.

The Devils had a 2-1 lead going into the second period and Hughes’ point streak was extended to three games.

The second period would see the Devils lose their lead and was a bit of a throwback to boot.

It began at the 8:33 mark of the second frame. Barzal gained the Devils zone and dropped a pass that he banked off of the boards to Andy Greene at the point, who was cruising in as a trailer.

Greene had a clear shot and beat Schmid stick side for his first goal since April 9, 2021 and his first of the season for the Isles. That tied the game at two.

Things were about to get weirder for the Devils.

At the 15:42 mark of the second, New York’s Robin Salo shot the puck over the glass resulting in a delay of game penalty for the Isles and a power play for the Devils.

At the 16:33 mark of the period, Mayfield cleared the puck just out of the New York zone and JG Pageau recovered it just outside the Isles’ blue line. He made a behind-the-back pass to Zach Parise, who saw a chance and was streaking through the neutral zone.

Parise took the pass and was in on his own, sliding the puck along the ice on his shot to beat Schmid and give the Islanders the 3-2 lead.

The shorthanded goal was Parise’s first goal of the season – and his first as an Isle. This game marked the fourth time Greene and Parise, both former Devils (and both former Devil captains), scored in the same game. The last time this occurred was November 12, 2009 when the Devils were at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A nightmare scenario for Devils fans, as the Isles killed the rest of the penalty as well.

The Islanders put a capper on the game in the third period 9:37 into the final frame. Hughes attempted to bank the puck back to Ty Smith in the neutral zone as Hughes was rushing up ice.

The puck never made it back to Smith and was picked off by Wahlstrom, who stole it and passed to Pageau, who joined him on the rush. Pageau unleashed a shot by Schmid once he got the puck in the New Jersey zone, beating Schmid to give either team their first multi-goal lead of the night: 4-2 – which would go down as our final.

Schmid was pulled for the extra attack with about 4:16 left in regulation and, though the Devils would have a two-man advantage with Schmid out and a power play (Parise was called for a high stick with a little less than a minute to go in the game), the Devils could not get one back.

New Jersey now has one win in their last seven.

The Devils outshot New York 32-29. They won a paltry 39-percent of the game’s faceoffs with Michael McLeod managing to win 73-percent of his to lead Devils centers.

The Devils ended up with 13 total team penalty minutes while the Isles accrued 25 total PIMs. The Islanders had 21 hits to the Devils’ 15 and 18 blocks to the Devils’ 12. The Isles did give the puck away 22 times to the Devils’ 13.

In terms of ice time, Damon Severson led all Devils skaters with 26 minutes logged. This included 2:56 on the power play and 1:33 on the penalty kill. Hughes led the forwards with 25:17 of total time which included 3:04 logged on the power play. McLeod led forwards in PK time with 1:35 logged, which edged Jimmy Vesey’s 1:34 of shorthanded time by one second.

Andreas Johnsson led in shots on goal with four. Geertsen and Jaros led in hits with three each. Dawson Mercer led in blocked shots with three. Giveaways were led by PK Subban with three and Johnsson led in takeaways with three.

Next up, the Devils inexplicably finish their season series against the Flyers on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Yes, they will be done with a season series with a division rival before the new year.

This will also be the Devils’ third meeting with the Flyers in about a span of two or three weeks. Puck drop for that game at Wells Fargo Center is 7 PM and will be broadcast on MSG.

Philly got off their schneid with a win in Vegas last week and have been leading in Arizona as I write this. We will see how the Devils respond following this set of back-to-back losses to Nashville and the Islanders.

We will have coverage for you right here following the game on Tuesday.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone and I will see you on Tuesday!

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