The Devils play many one-goal games. But when you win by the one-goal, you also lose by the one-goal sometimes. Tonight was one of those nights where the Devils would fall in a one-goal game. After being routed by the Flyers on Tuesday, New Jersey would start a stretch where they would face the top three teams in the Metro Division. First up: the third place New York Islanders.
Unfortunately for the Devil faithful, the team would play a largely undisciplined game, getting bailed out by the stellar play of Cory Schneider and their penalty killing. Otherwise, it could have gotten way out of hand.
Healthy scratches for the Devils included Eric Gelinas, Tuomo Ruutu and Damon Severson. Sitting for the Isles was Calvin de Haan, former Devil Steve Bernier and Jean-Francois Berube. For the Devils, defenseman Jon Merrill was getting some playing time, but other than that, the lineup was largely the same.
The Devils threw the aforementioned Cory Schneider out in net. He stopped 23 of 24 shots faced, while the Islanders countered with Jaroslav Halak. He was a perfect 27 for 27. Schneider was named the game’s number two star at the end of the night while Halak would be the first star as chosen by the attending media.
The lone goal of the game came from the Islanders’ Casey Cizikas, his sixth of the year from Nick Leddy and Matt Martin at 1:59 of the first period. From there, the game flew by with some scoring chances here and there, but nothing much going on.
The real story of the night was the Devils and the penalty box. Kyle Okposo of the Isles went off for hooking Adam Larsson at 19:06 of the first, giving the Devils a minute or so of power play time on fresh ice in the second. But from there, New York did not see the inside of the Prudential Center sin bin again.
Adam Henrique took a holding call at 3:46 of the second. The Devils killed that off. Then Joseph Blandisi took a hooking call at 9:34. The Devils killed that off. Then, at 15:00 of the second, Jordin Tootoo was assessed a cross-checking major and a game misconduct for driving Johnny Boychuk into the boards. The Devils were in a major spot. They would be ending the second period killing off a penalty. They were successful, but it took a chunk of time away from them to get on the board.
That trend continued when, in the waning minutes of the third period, the Devils were frantically trying to tie things up, looking for the right time to get Schneider off the ice for the extra attacker. At 18:16, just as the Devils would be up a man, Henrique took a high-sticking penalty against the Isles’ Thomas Hickey. And that effectively killed the comeback.
The Devils would get Schneider out to even things up, and the best the Islanders could do was hit the post on an empty net attempt, but the Devils had, for all intents and purposes, shot themselves in the foot.
Although they skated side-by-side with one of the better teams in their division, what they need now are points, not moral victories. A win could have moved them at least even with New York in the standings. But it was not to be due largely to undisciplined play.
Next up, New Jersey is right back on it when they head to Washington tomorrow to face the ever-powerful (and league-best) Capitals. The Devils forced the Caps to a shootout the last time they faced each other back on February 6. The bad news is that the way the team has been playing over the last two games, things could get ugly fast in DC. Hopefully, coach John Hynes has some lineup changes in store to shake things up because the Devils need these points.