The Devils played in what (could be) their penultimate game at the Nassau Coliseum (again) and took the powerful Islanders down 2-1 to continue Mackenzie Blackwood’s personal five-game win streak.
It was the first meeting between the Devils and Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac as Islanders. There were talk of mixed emotions and “weirdness” but once the game got going it settled into Islander versus Devil and nothing more.
Some roster moves for the night as Miles Wood was announced at game-time that he would play. Tyce Thompson and Nolan Foote slotted in for him and Nick Merkley up front. Ty Smith remains out with injury, so Matt Tennyson was in for him again.
The Isles are in their resting players for the playoffs mode so no Andy Greene or Jordan Eberle.
With Wood out, Pavel Zacha wore an “A” on his chest as an alternate captain.
In goal, the aforementioned Blackwood got the nod for the Devils. He stopped 32-of-33 Islander shots for a .970 save percentage on the night. He stopped New York’s only shorthanded shot and all five of their power play shots – the Isles were 0-for-2 on the man advantage. He turned aside 26-of-27 at even strength.
For the Isles Semyon Varlamov was between the pipes and stopped 23-of-25 Devils shots for a nightly .920 save percentage. He stopped the only Devils shorthanded shot and their lone power play shot as New Jersey went 0-for-1 on the power play. At even strength he turned aside 21 of the 23 Devil shots fired at him.
The Isles were in their blue alternate uniforms (the ones with the big “NY” on them) and looking to avoid only their fourth loss on home ice this season.
Zacha got the scoring started as he notched his 16th of the year at 14:11 of the first. Nico Hischier protected the puck in the near corner, and it squeezed out to Jesper Bratt, who immediately got it to Zacha in front. Zacha snapped a quick release by Varlamov to make it 1-0 Devils. He used a very quick release on this shot, not even thinking and just shooting, showing the growth in Zacha’s game.
The Isles tied things 5:35 into the second when Anthony Beauvillier grabbed the puck in his zone and started the breakout. He gave to Brock Nelson just as they were entering the New Jersey zone. Nelson went cross-ice to Scott Mayfield. Mayfield threw it towards the net and it went in off of Beauvillier’s leg as he was crashing the Devils’ net. It was now 1-1.
But the Devils would retake the lead as Michael McLeod put home the game-winner at 15:31 of the second. It happened when Ryan Murray got the puck at the point. They had rotated and Damon Severson was down by the Isles’ goal line. He went cross-ice as he found McLeod cutting towards the net backdoor. McLeod shoveled the pass in and made it 2-1 Devils.
And that would stand up.
A scary moment right after Varlamov was pulled with 1:24 left to go in regulation. An Islander player, following through on a shot clipped a crouching Jesper Boqvist in the nose. IT was not high-sticking but Boqvist did leave the game with a bloody nose.
Following one final icing call after McLeod tried for the empty net with 1.1 seconds to go, the Devils won the defensive zone draw and the final was in.
The Devils were outshot by New York 33-25, won a dismal 39-percent of the game’s faceoffs (with McLeod winning 69-percent to lead the centers). New Jersey was outhit 33-16 and had more giveaways at nine to the Isles’ five. The Devils did lead in blocks 24-19 (including a huge one by Hischier late in the game with the Isles pressing hard in the Devils’ zone and the extra attacker on).
Murray led in ice time with 21:12 while Jack Hughes led het forwards with 18:41.
Will Butcher led in shots with four, Nate Bastian led in hits with four, blocks were led by Murray with five and takeaways led by Severson with two.
Next up, the Devils stay on the Island, as they play the second of back-to-back games against the Isles. Puck drop for that game on Saturday is 7 PM and we will have coverage for you right here then.
Until then, stay safe everyone!