The Devils played game number 41 today, a 1 PM matinee and the halfway point of their season, on the brink of their bye week and it is official: they have hit a swoon. Winless in their last four, that longest stretch without a victory continued today in Brooklyn as the Devils fell 5-4 in a shootout. The Islanders had had an just as rough of a stretch, dropping their last four. All of their losses had come in regulation, putting them at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division as they came into this game. They snapped that with the win today.
The Devils have gotten a few points here and there: the overtime loss to Buffalo, the shootout loss to St. Louis and now this game, but they need to right some things coming out of their five day bye week. The majority of their games from here on out are against Metropolitan Division teams, including their first four out of the break – they get Philly twice, the Isles again and Washington, a rough patch for sure.
The Devils made some roster moves for this game, as Damon Severson, following being benched for two games, slotted back in. No defenseman came out, the Devils ran with eleven forwards and seven d-men. Stefan Noesen slotted out along with Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford up front.
The Islanders were missing two key cogs in their system, Josh Bailey and Andrew Ladd are out with injuries, but they should return soon. Isles coach Doug Weight said that the team is a walking MASH unit right now, likely part of the reason for their recent struggles. They had lost five in row for the first time since November of 2013. Sebastian Aho slotted in for Dennis Seidenberg for them.
In goal, Cory Schneider was back in for the Devils. He made 34 saves on 38 shots faced. Goaltending has been a bit of an Achilles heel for the Islanders, but they got a good game from Jaroslav Halak who made 42 saves on 46 shots.
It has almost become a running gag with the Devils having goals waved off and it continued today. At the 17:38 mark of the first period, Kyle Palmieri had seemingly scored on a wraparound. The officials waved the goal off, saying that Palmieri made incidental contact with Halak on the far side of the net, catching his blocker hand and impeding him from making the save. Despite Halak being outside of the blue paint, the goal did not count. The Devils used their coach’s challenge to say that their was no goalie interference but upon reviewing the video, the officials upheld the call on the ice. There was still no score.
That would change 15:28 into the period when Anders Lee scored for New York from Ryan Pulock and Thomas Hickey. After some bad luck, it was 1-0 Islanders.
The second period would bring the offensive awakening of Travis Zajac, as he scored twice before the period was over to help the Devils keep pace with the Isles, who would also grab one in the second. Zajac would go on to be named the game’s second star.
Zajac’s first goal came 4:43 in and happened when Palmieri skated the puck behind the Islanders’ net. He sent it back to Sami Vatanen at the near point, he shot and the puck came to Marcus Johansson, who spun, shot and the rebound came right to the stick of Zajac, who was collapsing down. Zajac scored and the game was tied up at one.
Anthony Beauvillier would give the Isles the lead again at 10:44 when he scored from Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. That made it 2-1. But Zajac had one more in him before the period expired.
At 16:25, Zajac scored while the Devils were killing off Pavel Zacha’s high-sticking penalty. The shorthanded goal came when Brian Gibbons dished to Zajac at center ice, springing him for the breakaway. Zajac skated in on Halak and roofed one, tying the game up at two. That set the stage for a wild third period.
First, just 2:41 in, the Devils took the lead for the first time all game when Miles Wood scored. It came when Taylor Hall grabbed a loose puck off the Devils’ forecheck. He passed to Will Butcher at the near point. Butcher fired and Wood gathered up the rebound and potted it to give the Devils the lead, 3-2.
Hall would double the Devils lead and score his second point on the afternoon less than a minute later at 3:18. Wood, John Moore and Hall broke in on a partial 3-on-2 with Wood carrying the puck. He dropped for Moore, who was trailing. Moore immediately found Hall, who cut in and made a nice move around Halak to give the Devils the 4-2 lead. That, however, would not last.
Aho would scored on the power play at 7:58 of the third while Hall was sitting for cross checking. He got assists from John Tavares and Barzal. On the evening, New York was 1-for-3 with the man advantage with four shots on net. New Jersey was 0-for-5 with eleven shots on goal. They also had three shorthanded shots.
The Islanders were not done, however, Cal Clutterbuck scored at 15:43 from Aho and Brock Nelson to tie things up at four. And that is how regulation would end. The Devils’ first trip to Brooklyn this season would result in at least a point, if not more if they could manage a win in overtime.
They were certainly presented with the opportunity. With 2:30 remaining in the five minute extra session, Isles superstar Tavares was called for tripping Palmieri. The Devils would have a 4-on-3 for most of the remainder of the OT. They did not finish, coming closest when Hall hit the crossbar late in the man advantage. Time expired on the overtime and we were headed to the dreaded shootout.
It ended up going five rounds as Eberle missed on his shot, Hall’s shot was corralled by Halak in the first round. Schneider saved Tavares’ shot and Jesper Bratt missed in the second round. In the third, both goalies made saves on Barzal and Palmieri. In the fourth round, Schneider got Anders Lee’s shot and Brian Boyle lost control of the puck on his chance. Brock Nelson kicked off round five by scoring and Brian Gibbons missed in the bottom of the round to seal the win for New York.
Statistically, time on ice was led by Taylor Hall with 23:53 (narrowly edging out Kyle Palmieri, who had 23:31). Hall, who is really hitting a stride recently, despite the team’s struggles, also led in shots on goal with eight. Blake Coleman led in hits with four and Palmieri and Andy Greene tied in the lead for blocks with three each. The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs.
So now we head into the five day bye week for the Devils – the Islanders will also have their bye this week. They will practice on Friday at four o’clock when the bye officially ends, but their next game is not until next Saturday when they meet the Philadelphia Flyers at home for the first time this season. A lot of their upcoming schedule will be dominated by the Metro Division so it is time to make hay. Hopefully, the team can get things going and make up some ground. They did lose a little bit of ground as the Capitals won in OT against the Blues today, so the Devils are at least three points out going into the break. We will see how things shake down when the Devils get back on the ice.