It looked pretty easy. The Devils were coming off of a come from behind victory against Detroit on Friday. The New York Islanders were coming home to play the second half of a back-to-back, having defeated Columbus last night in overtime. All the Devils needed to do was catch the tired Isles having a bad day and they would be fine.
Unfortunately for New Jersey and their fans, it did not quite work out that way. The team traveled to Brooklyn for the second time this season (this was a rare NHL Sunday matinee) and promptly got blown out of the Barclays Center.
Adam Henrique missed his second straight game with an injury. Brian O’Neill was also a healthy scratch along with Jon Merrill. Stefan Matteau was back in the lineup and Joseph Blandisi was playing in his second straight NHL contest. Both Henrique and Zajac would be dearly missed in the faceoff circle. The Devils were outdueled a whopping 33 to 17 in faceoffs.
David Schlemko was also in the lineup despite being sick over the last two days. He said that he got a good night’s sleep and was okay to go.
In net, Cory Schneider would get the start for the Devils, making 15 saves on 18 shots faced. He would be pulled in the second period in favor of Long Island-native Keith Kinkaid. Kinkaid wound up making 11 saves on 12 shots faced. Facing them was German-born Thomas Greiss for the Islanders. He was equal to all 26 shots he faced, notching his fourth career NHL shutout.
The game was all Islanders, starting at 7:43 of the first when former Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky fired from the point and scored off assists from Mikhail Grabovski and Josh Bailey. It was Zidlicky’s first of two on the night on his way to being named the game’s first star.
Isles superstar John Tavares would get his 13th of the year when he scored from the high slot. Assists went to Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson.
In the second period, Matt Martin got credited for a goal that got double tipped in off a shot from Casey Cizikas. Calvin de Haan got the secondary assist.
The final Islanders goal was a bit controversial. Zidlicky would get his second of the game and third of the season from Thomas Hickey and another former Devil, Steve Bernier. Prior to the goal, Schlemko was hit with an Islanders high stick and his mouth was bloodied. Normally, that would be a four-minute double minor, but nothing was called. It appeared that the officials simply missed it, and in fact, the Devils would not get their first chance on the power play until the third period (a Brock Nelson holding call at 7:45).
Another controversial non-call was a hard hit by Bernier on Andy Greene that could have been called boarding on Bernier. The Devils captain was shaken up, but did not leave the game. Adam Larsson, however, took exception to his defense partner getting roughed up and he and Bernier dropped the gloves. Both got five for fighting at 4:54, plus Larsson got the extra ten minute misconduct. Coach Hynes, in the postgame press conference, praised Larsson and said that it shows that the players care about each other and he was proud of Larsson’s response to what was a borderline illegal hit on Andy Greene. Larsson is not a usual suspect when it comes to fighting, but the big Swedish d-man held his own in his first NHL fight.
For his part, Greene also praised Larsson and said that he had not seen the replay of the hit yet. He said that he was simply dumping the puck in, on one leg and he knew that Bernier would be finishing his check, but he essentially did not have time to brace for the hit.
With the win, the Isles jumped over the Rangers into second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Devils are still in playoff position, too, in the second wildcard spot behind Ottawa.
The Devils will have to rebound against the Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday. Facing Jack EIchel and the young Buffalo club at First Niagara Center will have a similar feeling to this game in that the Sabres are playing on Monday night in Detroit and then will be coming home for the Devils game the next night. How will the Devils respond to this loss? We will all find out Tuesday.