The Devils traveled to UBS Arena in Elmont, New York and remained winless in the Islanders’ new building, dropping their second trip there 3-2 tonight.
This following the Isles notching their first-ever win in the new structure back on December 11 by beating the Devils 4-2.
Much like that night, Devils goaltending was in a state of flux for this game. The solution to the latest goaltending issues (Mackenzie Blackwood tested positive for COVID this week and their most recent backup, Akira Schmid is in COVID protocol as well) was to start Jon Gillies and bring in their Emergency Back Up Goalie Kyle Shapiro.
Outside of the nets, the Devils began to get some reinforcements with Andreas Johnsson, Pavel Zacha, Nate Bastian and Yegor Sharangovich coming off of the COVID list and back immediately into the lineup. In addition, Colton White was elevated from the taxi squad to the main roster and played tonight on the blue line.
Shapiro, a former NCAA Division III goaltender, is currently an assistant coach with the New Jersey Titans of the NAHL in Middletown, New Jersey. He wore number 65 as he dressed for the Devils tonight.
A lot of interest in him in the pregame show on MSG, understandably so. He joked in the pregame press conference that he would not have had this opportunity if the Devils were in Los Angeles and not Long Island. It was a lot easier for him to get up to the team bus in Newark and join the team this way.
He also marveled at the level of hotel the Devils were lodged in and the quality of food that they receive, saying he could see “why everyone loves the NHL!”
His parents also made the trip from New Jersey to Elmont, to get to see him take the ice for warmups even if he did not get any actual game time. At the urging of PK Subban, though, he did get to take the rookie solo lap as he took the ice for warmups – without his mask no less!
Although Shapiro was there in the event he was needed (and head coach Lindy Ruff did mention that he had a very good practice on Wednesday with the team and seemed truly capable of stopping NHL-level shots), as mentioned it was Gillies who got the start.
Gillies, making his second start as a Devil and third NHL start of the season, largely played very good tonight. He kept the Devils in the game and gave them an opportunity to win, making 22 saves on 25 shots by the Islanders for a save percentage of .880 for the night.
He saved five of the Isles’ six power play shots as New York was 1-for-4 on the man advantage. At five-versus-five, he made 17 saves on 19 shots against.
One of the place the Isles are actually healthy is in the crease. They started Ilya Sorokin, who was equal to 30 of the Devils’ 32 shots against for a .938 save percentage. While shorthanded, the Devils had two shots on the Isles’ net and Sorokin got both. He stopped four of the Devils’ five power play shots and 24 of their 25 even strength shots. The Devils went 1-for-5 as a team on the power play.
Each team was coming off of a substantial layoff. The Devils had not played since this past Saturday in Columbus (a 4-3 loss to the Blue Jackets) while the Islanders were able to top them. New York had not played since New Year’s Day – January 1 – when they got a 3-2 overtime victory over the Edmonton Oilers at home.
The Devils were also still missing their two best blue liners this season with Dougie Hamilton out with a broken jaw and on COVID protocol and Damon Severson on the COVID list.
The Isles were missing their head coach Barry Trotz behind the bench as his mother passed away during the New Year’s holidays and was put in COVID protocol when he returned. Assistant coach Lane Lambert took over for the Isles behind the behind the bench tonight.
(My condolences to Trotz, as well on the loss of his mother).
The game started with a scary moment when Devils forward AJ Greer took an illegal check to the head from Ross Johnston of the Isles just 3:12 in. Devils coach Lindy Ruff mentioned in his postgame press conference that Greer was “not right” and “all messed up” due to the hit and that the NHL needed to take a look at the hit.
Greer would continue to play in the game and, in fact, draw a cross checking penalty from Adam Pelech midway through the second period. Greer ended up logging only 7:20 of total ice time in the game, although it is unclear if he left the game after the Pelech cross check or if he only played that little due to his role on the team.
Gillies showed a little of what he could do early on in the first when he stopped Casey Cizikas on a breakaway that was caused by a White turnover at the Islanders blue line. Gillies got a small piece of Cizikas’ shot as it was redirected towards the glass behind the Devils net about 3:30 or four minutes into the game.
It was the Devils who would strike first due to that stop.
With 9:43 gone into the game, Sharangovich took an outlet pass from Subban and raced up the left-wing boards. He got a shot off in stride and the puck snuck between Sorokin’s right arm and the near post for Sharangovich’s fourth goal in four nonconsecutive games played. White had the secondary assist and New Jersey had the 1-0 lead.
But the Isles would have a response before the first period was up.
White was called for hooking Anthony Beauvillier at the 17:07 mark of the first, which put the Islanders on the power play.
With that extra attacker, Beauvillier moved the puck to Zach Parise. Parise faked a shot, stepped around a Devils penalty killer and threw the puck on net towards Gillies. Gillies made the initial save, but could not control the rebound, which went right to Josh Bailey at the far side of the net.
This allowed Bailey to scoop the puck into the net behind Gillies at 18:58 gone by in the first period and tie the game at one.
That is how the game would go into the first intermission.
Returning from the break, that took us to a relatively uneventful second period.
The Isles would grab their first lead of the night when they scored at 8:22 gone by in the second period.
The Devils had trouble clearing the puck from their end and turned the puck over to Parise at the near side of the Devils net. After the former Devil captain gathered the puck, he was able to push it to Kieffer Bellows as he was being hounded.
Bellows moved it to Adam Pelech at the near point. Pelech took a shot that kind of fluttered towards the Devils net and Gillies. Parise had gone to the front of the net as a screen and Pelech’s shot had hit Devils defenseman Ryan Graves’ leg, redirecting by Gillies to make it 2-1 Islanders.
It had seemed that Parise had initially been the one to redirect the puck in but he goal would go to Pelech for his first of the season. Parise has one goal this year, the game-winning shorthanded goal from the Isles’ December 11 win over the Devils.
The third period started with Gillies stopping the Islanders on a 2-on-1 early on. Subban had blown a tire just inside the Isles zone and White was the only one back as Cal Clutterbuck carried the puck into the Devils zone with another Islander attacker.
White played the 2-on-1 perfectly, giving Clutterbuck no choice but to shoot. Gillies turned that aside and the Devils were still in things.
Then the Isles began to get into some penalty trouble and the Devils had their opportunity.
Pelech was called for tripping Bastian at 7:47 gone by in the third and New York killed that one. Almost immediately after that was killed, at the 10:08 mark, Brock Nelson was assessed a cross checking minor against Michael McLeod putting the Devils right back on the power play.
New Jersey would cash in on this one.
At 10:25, Nico Hischier got the puck to Ty Smith at the far point as the Devils settled in to the Islanders zone. Smith teed up a shot and blasted it on Sorokin with Bastian as a screen in front of the New York goaltender.
Bastian got a piece of Smith’s shot and redirected it by Sorokin to tie the game at two. Much like the Devils’ other goal scorer, Yegor Sharangovich, Bastian was on the COVID list for the last game and made an immediate impact upon his return.
Things look good for the Devils. Should they hold on, they might have just been able to salvage a point out of all of these injuries and illness and might weather the storm a bit.
Then, at the 15:07 mark of the third, Mat Barzal struck for the Isles.
It was then that the dynamic Barzal carried the puck into the Devils zone, dished it off to Bailey and got lost into the middle of the ice. He got the pass back from Bailey and whipped a shot by Gillies from the slot to put New York up 3-2 at this late point in the game. Scott Mayfield had the secondary assist ont eh goal.
The Devils would pull Gillies with just over two minutes to go in regulation but, despite a frantic and exciting finish, the Devils could not get the game tied up again. We had a 3-2 final.
The Devils outshot the Isles 32-25 and won a nice 58-percent of the game’s faceoffs. Hischier led the centers in personal winning percentage with 74-percent.
Team penalty minutes saw the Isles with 12 and the Devils racking up ten. New York outhit the Devils 27 to 16. Both teams logged 13 blocked shots and the Islanders had 11 team giveaways to the Devils’ eight.
Graves led the Devils in total ice time with 25:28. That includes 24 seconds on the power play and 5:33 of time on the penalty kill. Smith led the defensemen in PP time with 5:26 out of his 20:46 total.
For the forwards, Jack Hughes led with total time logged at 20:36 (including 4:04 of PP time). Hischier actually led in power play time with 4:26 out of his 18:06 total time and Michael McLeod led in shorthanded time with 4:19 amongst the forwards corps. That was out of his total TOI of 14:40.
Hischier also led in total shots on goal with four. McLeod led in total hits with five. Graves led in blocks with three. Graves and Subban also led in personal giveaways with two each while Dawson Mercer, Zacha, Hughes and Graves all led in personal takeaways with one each.
Next up, it’ll be a while.
The Devils’ mini road trip through Canada – Saturday in Montreal at the Canadiens and Monday at the Leafs in Toronto – have both been postponed due to issues with crowd caps in a few Canadian cities, including Montreal and Toronto.
That means that the Devils’ next scheduled game will not come until Wednesday, January 19 at home against the Arizona Coyotes.
Puck drop for that game will be at 7 PM and the game will air on television on MSG+.
We will have any updates should things change in the meantime.
And finally, the 2022 NHL All-Star Game is coming up, slated to be played February 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
That is less than a month away and, with that, the NHL announced the rosters for each division heading into the midseason classic.
The Devils’ representative on the Metropolitan Division this season will be Jack Hughes, making his first appearance in an NHL All-Star Game.
Hughes will be the youngest player participating in the All-Star weekend at 20-years-old.
Hughes’ achievement is even more astonishing considering the relatively limited amount of time that he has actually spent healthy this season. Through only 19 games this year, he has nine goals and eleven assists to total 20 points.
Congratulations to Jack and to Jesper Bratt, who will be a nominee for het Last Men In vote. Fans can vote the Devils’ scoring leader onto the Metro Division All-Star team by visiting NHL.com/all-star-ballot.
We will also have more coverage of Jack Hughes and the 2022 NHL All-Star Game as that event draws closer.