The Devils welcomed the New York Islanders to Prudential Center tonight, a rematch from Thursday’s loss on Long Island. This time, it was the Devils and goaltender Scott Wedgewood who had the last laugh, winning 2-0.
A roster move to begin things as Nick Merkley was recalled from the taxi squad and Jesper Boqvist added to the taxi squad in his place. Merkley entered the lineup while defensemen Connor Carrick and Will Butcher remained as healthy scratches. Coach Lindy Ruff did some juggling of the lines to try to spark the Devils a little.
Jesper Bratt is still in quarantine after coming over from Sweden, Nico Hischier remains injured but is “progressing” according to Ruff and Sami Vatanen is awaiting a visa and has yet to come to the United States from Finland.
In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood remains on the COVID-19 protocol list. In his place, Wedgewood got his second straight start for New Jersey. He would end up stopping all 28 shots he faced, including six power play shots (that all came on one power play opportunity out of the two the Islanders had).
Facing him was Isles backup rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin, who stopped 22 of 24 Devils shots, including two-of-three on the power play and 20 of 21 at even strength. Neither team had a shorthanded shot.
The Devils lost badly in the faceoff circle, with the Isles winning 61-percent of the draws while the Devils won at a 39-percent clip. The Devils were also outhit 16-12 and had less blocked shots at six to the Isles’ nine. They also had more giveaways: seven to New York’s five.
Early in the game, the Devils played a video tribute to Devils-turned-Islanders Andy Greene and Cory Schneider on the big board. Although there were no fans in attendance, Greene did raise his stick to the “crowd” and part of the tribute was shown on MSG+ TV.
The only two goals of the game took place in the first period.
Jack Hughes kicked off the scoring when he notched one on the power play at 17:00. Scott Mayfield had gone off for a hook and the Devils made them pay.
The Isles were actually down to three men because one of their penalty killers was without a stick. The Devils moved the puck nicely from Kyle Palmieri to Ty Smith to Hughes, who walked in and shot through a Miles Wood screen. He scored to make it 1-0 New Jersey.
It was the first of two points for Smith, who became the sixth NHL defenseman to record a point in his first five NHL games. He became the first since Cale Makar of the Avalanche did it a few years back.
The second Devils goal – and the final goal of the game – came with exactly one minute to go in the first. Merkley moved the puck to Smith at the point. He gave to Nikita Gusev, who made a sweet inside-out move on the Islander defender. Gusev then shot and Pavel Zacha buried the rebound that Sorokin could not contain. That gave us our final of 2-0.
The Devils had earned at least a point in their last five home meetings with the Islanders and tonight they got the full two.
For Wedgewood, the game’s first star (Hughes was the third and Smith the second), this was his first shutout at the NHL level since December 12, 2017 when, as a member of the Coyotes, he blanked the Devils. It is his first shutout as a Devil in about five years when he did it against the Penguins.
Individually, Dmitry Kulikov led all skaters with 24:06 of time on ice while Travis Zajac led the forwards with 20:25. Power play time was led by Zajac, Palmieri, Wood, Smith and Janne Kuokkanen with 1:30 each. Kulikov spent the most time killing penalties with 2:24 logged during shorthanded situations.
Smith led in points with his two assists, Zajac led in shots with four, hits were led by Nate Bastian and Damon Severson with two each, blocks were led by Ryan Murray with two and takeaways by Zacha with two.
Next up, the Devils will face their other rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers at the Rock on Tuesday. That game is at 7 PM ET and we will have coverage for you right here. Until then, be save everyone.